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TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Taking Wisely the Counsel of the Years

IMPORTANCE is relative. The counsel of the years tells us that what we think is worth getting upset over now we will probably laugh about in a decade. Yet those things that might concern us a decade from now, as we look at them now, confuse us as to exactly how to handle them.
The counsel of the years speaks into our speaking — we say too many things that are false, ill-considered, unguarded, and panicked by comparison to the calm deliberation the years give us.
The counsel of the years gives us perspective regarding our hurts. Those betrayals we must bear, those where it is one person’s perspective versus another’s, are the betrayals that will betray our sensibilities for reason. But it takes a few years of contemplation to arrive at the fuller maturity of truth.
The counsel of the years provides reason to exercise grace whenever we can. We begin to see that everyone — in general terms — is trying their level best. The only ones who aren’t are those who aren’t trying at all. With people who are committed to their worldview they will rarely be convinced otherwise. And why would they. They ought to be commended for their commitment, even if we cannot agree with them.
The counsel of the years commends us to be kind to people and be harsher on ourselves. If we can take responsibility for what we should now, then we will have fewer regrets later, when we are left with what we are left with. Through the compassion of kindness we are eternally blessed, but through a short-sighted stinginess based in laziness we miss opportunities we never knew we missed.
The counsel of the years makes meaning for life when we might worry that we suffer in vain. Only through the counsel of years can see that God can rebuild anything, and that many rebuilds are classic innovations of divinity that not only resurrect but ascend, too. Suffering is so often the gateway to life we never thought would ever come again. Suffering can often produce something that was never ours beforehand. Suffering reinvents us, but only through the counsel of the years.
The counsel of the years places importance on those things that are hard but worthwhile instead of those things that provide pleasure but are fleeting. It is hard to eat for health, yet the reward is redeemed as the years unveil favour.
Taking wisely the counsel of the years is the perspective later we wish we had now.
Taking wisely the counsel of the years banks on the appearance of truth at the right time.
Looking to the lives of others is one way we can learn to be our best selves.
Insight comes through the counsel of the years. Things as they come to be aren’t always as they seem now. Truth is a pariah until it comes. The truth makes fools out of us all.
We make all sorts of bullish decisions knowing full well we have no idea what we do not know.
Take wisely the counsel of the years.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How Am I To Forgive This Disgusting Betrayal?

AFFAIRS destroy marriages. There is such a truth in that it seems. Yet there are also marriages that do recover after a third party and one partner have united to dislocate the anointed party of two. Some partnerships are strewn like bread in broth, dissolved to mush, and others are strengthened, ultimately and seemingly, through some miraculous effect — transactions of holy grace.
Of course, there are other betrayals in life. But does betrayal get any more painfully poignant than in a covenanted relationship that becomes, for all time, unhitched. This article is solely about marital betrayal, yet leading to the possibility of the married couple’s reconciliation as a married couple. There isn’t much sense writing for the purpose of reconciling a situation where the arrangement remains broken.
How do we reconcile a situation where betrayal presents us with the dichotomous arrangement — needing to forgive, yet being unable to?
How are we to have a hope for reconciling the betrayal — a fact of love becoming unloving — other than to make what was unloving a source for loving again?
Repentance on the one hand, grace on the other.
If one person has sullied the marriage, yet they acknowledge their wicked way, they turn back to God, and they turn to their partner, and put measures into place whereby it will not happen again; there is repentance. They deserve their second chance.
If another person, the one betrayed, sees that sort of response, there is a biblical mandate to forgive — to get on with the work of mending the relationship. Yet, the relationship still needs much supernatural help, because the grace to forgive the betrayal of a marriage partner is not humanly manufactured. Only God can supply the perspective and understanding a forgiving person needs. The power to forgive does not come from human means or motivation.
In the person forgiving there is the need to go deeply into their own experience of sin. How else are they to have compassion on the person who has sinned against them? Grace comes through perspective and understanding. Grace comes from the attitude, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Grace can never come to the person who prays like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14. The Pharisee’s pride disables their ability to forgive.
Forgiveness is easy when we have our own sinful nature deep in sight — right before our eyes. For some people their pride may be their only visible sin. This is the older brother archetype in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The person who cannot see any fault on their own side will find forgiveness impossible. And they will move away from God and only become more and more miserable.
The truth is, in relationships, we all fall short of God’s standard of love. We all fail our partners. We all betray our partners. But not to the extent of an affair. So the depth of the betrayal becomes the issue — the covenant is rocked.
But sin is sin. Jesus called a lustful look, adultery, and anger, murder. We do need to acknowledge the depth of hurt. We do need to ensure we validate this is a grave error on the part of the betraying partner. We do need to ensure they fall on their sword in a consistent way. And if the betraying partner can meet that humiliated standard, regularly and continually, why should they not be forgiven? And if they can be forgiven, why shouldn’t there be a restoration? Actually, forgiveness means restoration, because forgiveness without restoration, where it is possible, is probably not forgiveness.
Once a decision is made — a stake is hammered into the ground — to forgive and to reconcile — there must be a formalisation of such a decision. We must lock ourselves in, by faith, so we have no way of getting out. That, again, is covenant. The covenant, once broken, must be restored. And it is stronger now with both parties moving into the way, more continually, of repentance.
Both must be equally yoked in terms of spiritual growth and commitment. Indeed, both must have their commitments driven directly out of the Godhead, and not from the marriage, first and foremost.
God holds the marital relationship together by twofold commitment. The twofold commitment is vulnerable without such supernatural favour that buoys grace. Grace forgives. The best marriages are forgiving marriages.
So there we have it. It is up to both partners in a marriage rent asunder. Where there is repentance on the one hand, the reciprocation is grace on the other.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Embracing Your Existential Loneliness for Healing

FOLLOWING on from the previous piece — When Loneliness Meets God — I have found something contemptible in my existence.
When I sit down and stare into space there is a loneliness that fills my heart. When I am devoid of activity and simply sit there and be, I am faced with my own mortality and being. I am faced with a person I cannot get away from. And I am at once both troubled and relieved. It is a surreal experience, that experience of existence.
Tapping into this experience, though it might sound anachronistic, given we live so we might as well live, is fundamental to knowing who we are; we need God.
When we know we need God we then have no reason to hide from anything. Even the darkness, in all its vicissitude, cannot scare us when we have nothing to hide from.
Most of us want the power to be able to engage freely with anyone. Engage with God, authentically, and engage with yourself, truly, and there you have it. We then have the capacity to look anyone in the eye with the want to be there!
A certain sense for loneliness follows us all through the lifespan. It is not an unhealthy thing to know that we are missing something. Even when we believe in God, that missing piece is not given to us. We wait upon a final redemption when all things are made new. Until then we carry about in our bodies this loneliness that the mind must grapple with, if our mind is to live abiding to what it must wrestle with.
If we love God we will love truth.
God has infused a longing in us to know him (Ecclesiastes 3:11). To deny him is to deny our loneliness, and to deny our loneliness is to deny our very selves.
The key to healing is to endure the pain of the loneliest moment. If loneliness cannot scare us, because we know and can access God, then nothing can threaten us.
It is up to us to embrace a thing that we cannot change as we live and breathe.
God gives us the fortitude and the reason to do it.
We sit and wait in a quiet moment with ourselves. And God affirms what we are doing. “I am in you,” says the Lord, by his Spirit. “I am in you, so take heart, for the best is still yet to come!”
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Charging Ahead With Your Head When Your Heart Lags Behind

TEMERITY of life is always taxing. The audacity of God to plunge us into situations that would have us scramble for a response that might work. And so patient is our Lord that he bears us every minute until we suddenly and finally realise “this is not working.” Oh, there will be many of those revelations! And they gut us and tire us…
A friend reminded me of the story where Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection (John 21). They were frustrated in having fished all night without getting a single fish. Ahead of them, there Jesus stood, on the beach, as they returned. He asked them what they had caught, knowing they had caught nothing. He was calm; they were spent, physically and emotionally. Jesus simply said, literally, “Cast your net to the right side of the boat and you will find fish.” Interesting that he said “right (Greek: dexia) side” and “you will findfish. It illustrates two important points.
In particular relation to forgiveness, when we cast our nets, looking for a catch of healing, we often cast them to the wrong side for a while. And we catch nothing but more anger and resentment. Our nets are our capacity to resolve the crisis that has swarmed into and commandeered our lives. Our casting is our effort. Our nets are designed to help us get through. Our casting merely needs to be directed in the right direction; in the right place — there we will find what we have been looking for for a long time now.
But to cast our nets out in faith seems an oblivious event. We have cast all night, and only into despair. It’s not working and our faith has failed us. In exasperation, only then are we prepared to try something new.
And still the Lord whispers, “Cast on the other side… then, you will find.”
The side we are least likely to try and cast our net to is the side where we have to throw our whole being into forgiveness. It is always horrid to forgive — that’s how it feels as we start out. To throw our whole being into charging ahead with our head when our heart lags behind seems mad. But it is a faith personified, where faith that isn’t personified is no faith at all. Faith requires us, in body, in mind, in soul; our entire being.
Jesus commends us to get into forgiveness, boots and all. Jesus commends us to a radical forgiveness; actions of which nobody could beforehand predict might happen. Jesus commends us to lock the door of resentment and throw away the key so we may never ever go in there again.
Cast your net to the right side, and there you will find your catch!

© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Attitude of Love In Observable Behaviour

LOVE is not a feeling, but more an action; something observable rather than simply an attitude. Not many would disagree. Sure, we might feel ‘in love’ or find ourselves loving something or somebody, but real love, when it is analysed, is much less about emotion than it is about action.
Loves gives when we rather wouldn’t. Love chooses to do the hard thing when it would be more convenient to back out. Love is the halcyon of true life; sustainability is always found on shaky ground without genuine love being extended and propping up any and all of life.
These two matters of attitude are also easily observable, and love without these two is a mirage; a fabrication of a good thing falling far short: the two criterion for love are trust and respect.
Because trust and respect are essences of communication, and because they are the two most important qualities in love, communication is how love is observed.
Good communication between two people, or two entities, or more than two, is a task of love. To give love is to trust a person. To give love is to respect a person. Neither trust nor respect is anything we can be forced to do. We can only ever will ourselves to extend the grace of trust. We can only ever decide that we will respect someone.
The Gift to Trust
When we trust someone we give them a wonderful gift; one they may not very frequently have experienced. It is a wonderful thing to be empowered to gift someone our trust. To trust someone when we are not compelled to do it is powerful, because we all need to know we are genuinely trusted. Trust is only trust when we have sufficient faith to endure the pain of someone failing us. To trust is a test of faith.
The Gift to Respect
Respect can never be assumed and can never be taken for granted. We must earn respect and continue to earn it. Respect is nothing about position power. A good leader does not need his or her position in an organisation to prop them up.  He or she wins people because they are full of integrity in the way they trust and respect people. To respect someone is to give them something; it’s a gift when we respect people. They feel they have been given a gift; something most precious.
Love is a wonderful gift because it gives expecting no return. The two best gifts are trust and respect. To trust someone is to love them by not being disappointed if they fail our trust. It is to respect someone without a single condition.
Only when trust and respect are unequivocal do we see love flourish in action.

© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Feeling Betwixt and Between and What That Means

INDECISION is at the forefront of our lives, especially when we are stuck in a place we don’t want to be. Being undecided is not always about not knowing what to do.
Many times it is about knowing exactly what we want to do, but without having the means to do it.
Sometimes we are asked to wait — for an undetermined time; for a situation that may never actually arise. We can’t contemplate letting go of it. But we cling to it by faith, saving ourselves for this plan (what we believe so passionately for) of God’s action should it come about. Again, some ‘plans’ we cannot let go of. We get stuck. Our faith can only hold to this particular design for the future.
Too easily are we restrained in bargaining with God when, we should know, bargaining will get us precisely nowhere — especially with God. Our bargaining will coerce God not one iota.
So we are left with a decision to make: how do we get unstuck when we are betwixt and between?
Being encamped in a particular struggle is good in that we know what we need to do. How is more the question.
Being betwixt and between is inevitable. But it is worse when we are stuck in a season of it — especially if that season is months or years. Finding we are encamped in a certain struggle — an ugly or needy or vulnerable pattern of thinking — we are frequently shouting to our inner selves: “Enough already!”
Don’t be too hard or down on yourself. The fact is you will work through it. You must. We all must. And we are all destined to find ourselves challenged to get unstuck from patterns of thinking that our feelings lock us into.
Life is a journey through the arctic at times. Pack ice is the worst of grief, where every day is a slog to break through. But a lot of life is floating by the majestic glaciers, watching the ice shelf, marvelling at its resplendent beauty. Yet, glaciers inevitably break off. Life’s goal is still about navigating the icebergs, even as we enjoy the sights. It’s not what’s above the waterline that is of most concern. It’s what is deeper below that wreaks havoc in our psyches. Many times our thinking takes us into times where we find we are nowhere and, worse, encamped by bergs all around.
Being betwixt and between is a thinking challenge to be overcome.
When icebergs develop in our thinking, let us not get concerned about shifting them from above the surface. Let us go deeper below to find out what is causing the thinking deeper within us. It’s less about the other person or the situation. The key to getting unstuck is within us.
The deeper problems in life, and the solutions, are deeper within us. Let us go deeply inside, seek God, and take courage, when we must change.
When life is cold, we must keep moving.

© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Listening Church

COMMUNICATION is at the heart of everything. Whether on earth or in heaven, or whether by light or by darkness, in good times as well as bad, communication is the precipice of existence, the pinnacle of meaning, and the principle of life. And if communication is the heart of everything, the soul of that heart is listening.
Listening is the humility of the holiness of God — the very manifestation of the Divine Good as present in humanity.
The Listening Church As She Listens to God
The listening church prays. Praying is as much about listening to the Holy Spirit, with a heart to discern what only the Spirit can say, as it is about a supposedly holy utterance (for, how many prayers are uttered in an unworthy fashion?).
The listening church listens to God and she does everything to perceive in preference to acting. She doesn’t act until she has perceived and weighed matters. We perceive the church as feminine given that femininity is essentially about bearing up and enduring — i.e. as in labouring and childbirth. The church is in receipt of the Word; the church does not give the Word. The church may promulgate the Word, but she never initiates in and of herself without first listening in order to perceive in order to act. And who may perceive but for a heart after God alone? Who, then, may act without being constantly aware of the responsibility it holds? The responsibility that the church holds is immense.
The listening church must listen or else she fails God at what she is called to do. Without listening there is no right perception, and where there is no right perception, any and all action is ultimately forlorn.
The Listening Church As She Listens to Others (Who Disagree)
The listening church sets herself apart as capable of listening; even as capable of tolerating the vitriol of divisive voices, from both within and without. The church distances herself from the vain pride of arrogance — a heinous and worldly presence so estranged to the Spirit.
The listening church repels that presence from within herself, whilst she bears assaults of all kinds that have that presence. The church, in this holy and regal regard, is utterly other-than everything else over the whole earth. The church recoils from any inner strain of speech of vainglory.
The listening church is able to accommodate every vocal attack of disagreement. It holds the attack as non-threatening, respecting the visceral voice which is always spoken from the place of the divisive one’s abiding truth.
The listening church is no threat to anyone and cannot, in herself, be threatened. She abides in the truth as a peacemaker, holding out in the integrity of faith in the shimmering hope of the Kingdom of God.
The Listening Church As She Listens to Herself
The listening church is introspective. She learns. She cannot help but be intrusively passionate in looking within, to be everything she can be for those she serves. She bears discomfort in her learning. She approaches the presence of her own humiliation in great preference to another’s. Indeed, she exists to advocate against another’s humiliation. She wants others listened to!
The listening church is humble in every way, open at all points for learning, and able to hear herself when challenging truths need to be spoken and heard from within.
In a world where communication is everything, the church, when she is best, is a listener.
The listening church is everything the world needs. Everything the world needs of the church can be achieved through listening.
Only when the church listens can she perceive. Only when she has perceived can she rightfully act. Only when the church acts rightfully is the church being the church. And it all starts, endures and ends through listening.

© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why Surrender Was the Wisest Thing I Ever Did

WHEN life is beyond our scope of control, and when elements of our lives are maddeningly chaotic, we can be forgiven for throwing our hands in the air. Such a choice for ‘surrender’ is, itself, truly a foolish thing to do.
To give up is to give the enemy a bullseye, for sure. In our heart of hearts we are forlorn that our lives have run off target, and it is worse if we seem to be innocent victims.
But innocence has nothing to do with a situation any of us can find ourselves in at any time. This is not about bad luck or bad management or bad anything-else. This is about the response only a wise person can make. And wise people make wise decisions based in faith because the consequences of not turning to God are going to be direr if they don’t.
The word ‘surrender’ was mentioned further up, but that is not really a surrender with any character about it.
It is easy to give up, say it is too hard, or put our foot down — “No! Not under those conditions!” Who are we fooling when we are found in a desperate situation?
God cannot be fooled and we will reap the consequences of our decisions.
Let us get one thing straight — we will only experience God’s phenomenal Spiritual power when we trust him enough to obey — which is to surrender any say we would otherwise have.
To surrender in this way is to submit — to every force that God will bring into our orbit for our betterment. And how will we know it is for our betterment or not? Wise people will affirm it. We will know that the things that cost us dearly, now, we will be rewarded for later on — and yet this is no reason to blackmail God — rewards come in a way and at a time that God decrees.
Surrender is what will take us from the calamity that is our life as it is right now into the peace of the new thing. We do not give up on life. We go one-hundred-eighty degrees in the opposite direction. We tussle with the material that is presented before us; exactly as our lives have worked out to this point.
When we give our lives over to God in the moment, prepared to do whatever it takes, our faith prevails upon God’s sympathy, and God blesses us with power — a joyful peace exudes.
Momentary surrender,
The joining of our will,
Know that with God,
He will keep us still!
Join the moments together,
The wisdom of surrender,
Joining the will of God,
He will keep us tender!
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

RECOVERY – the Cost of Desperation, the Blessedness of Patience

DESPERATION, truly, when it is fully fledged, has no conditions attached to it. It is fully prepared to go where it needs to — by faith, alone — to avail itself to recovery.
Of course, we can do anything if we are desperate enough. And I make these comments in relation to positive desperation; not the variety of desperation that compels us to commit crimes to support habits.
We don’t design conditions if we are desperate enough.
Conditions are not something we are willing to put in the way of our recovery. We are willing to put our backs into the work ahead and to fully trust those who, for this season of our lives, make the rules.
When we have sunk down below, below we must go in our climbing back to life.
Rock bottom experiences of life are only destined to come once in life. If we will not learn something of the humiliation of such an exercise, life will have no problem taking us deeper! The moment we deny we truly have a problem is the moment when we give God’s enemy even more license to sink his claws into our flesh.
I learned through my AA days over a decade ago, that, sponsors would say, “With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us though we could find an easier, softer way, but we could not.”
Desperation is at the core of many successful ventures. To achieve the goal of recovery we must be so single-minded, one day at a time.
When we are desperate we don’t say to God, “I want this… I want that.” The humiliation of the demands placed on us match the humiliation we find ourselves in. Only as we steadily prove ourselves to be serious — as we successfully traverse the days, weeks and months of our recovery without backsliding — do we earn the privileges specified within the rules. When we prove we can play by the rules, then we earn the privilege of graduating to a place where we self-regulate — where we make the rules, ourselves.
The very dear cost of desperation removes the right of options. Conditions are not something we have the luxury of when we have scraped the bottom of the heap. But patience combined with desperation is where recovery has traction.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Admiration for God at the Development of a Child

IMAGES in the mind are by far more powerful than the images we see with our eyes, typically. But the image of seeing God in the moment — an interaction between mother and her two-year-old son — just in their conversing — was a powerful image. His language as he develops, how he surprises us with what he picks up, his exigent emotions as they are emerging, his play, the intensity of focus, the event of inspiration, the spark of creativity; all these things bring such joy to me as a parent.
His giggle when he’s tickled, and his hands over face to cover his eyes when he’s devastated, and his cheekiness to try and demand his own way — these bring his family alive. Alive to joy, alive in a fear for his emotional safety, and even alive to bear with him in patience.
In all this, in all our experiences with him, indeed, in all our experiences with all our children, we are brought alive. We know we are living. We feel. Whether we like what we feel or not is immaterial. We feel.
God teaches us in our observations of our young that we really do learn so much through the lifespan. It’s only that we grow at such a docile rate that we think nothing of it. But God is faithful in helping us all the way through our lives — the pinnacle of which is to learn through adversity, suffering, loss and grief.
No matter what our children come into the world with, we love them. No matter what disabilities we find they have, our love is unconditional. We have less certainty about how others accept our children. Indeed, we find we are now no longer most threatened about how accepted we are in this world, how the world accepts our young, and the home they find of the world, is now our chief concern. We get to think selflessly and, therefore, we are given a glimpse into God’s world.
But I must finish where I started. The image of an interaction of life, where I was just an observer; I could have observed it from heaven. And on the same day when last year we discovered our lives were to take another, now dire, direction we are relieved at the simple comfort of joy that can be experienced in a life now more normal.
He is my very near delight,
The glory of God’s joy,
Very near in my sight,
Boy, do I appreciate this boy!
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

When the Prodigal Son or Daughter Comes Home

THERE is a party going on in the heavenly realm, right now, for the lost who are, in this moment, found. The angels might exist for this express purpose: salvation.
And we may be confident that the seed sown into the prodigal son or daughter is good; that it takes greatly sufficient root and receives the succour of water and light for growth. The prodigal son or daughter is blessed in that they know what they have lost before they have found God. They know the feeling of living estranged to God. They know that soul loneliness that leaves them bitterly afraid for life itself. They are so afraid they are willing to step forward never to ever look back again.
Glorious LORD, Holy Father,
Thank You for the reality of answered prayer,
Thank You, Lord, that we chose to dare,
Thank You that You chose Your Son,
Thank You, Lord, that Salvation is done!
Thank You for the wonderful sight,
Thank You, Lord, for Salvation’s delight,
Thank You for the love we share,
Thank You, Lord, for answered prayer!
Thank You for the faith of the one You save,
Thank You, Lord, and just keep him brave,
Thank You for the love by which we show we care,
Thank You, Lord, for answered prayer!
When Prayer is Answered in the Affirmative
Having prayed for a certain young man to come to truly need and, therefore, know the Lord, and then to actually experience him contrite, ready; at the precipice, serious about the journey ahead, knowing there can be no turning back — an eternal moment that always catches our emotions by surprise — is just simply blessed.
This prodigal son, having dabbled long enough in the world to see the scars of his existence extinguish all his hopes, returns, ready and willing to go on with God — toward the very serious series of missions ahead of him.
Nothing can prepare our hearts to receive him gladly enough. But we pray that we are enough for God at that moment. And God will not let us down! We are merely to present as courageous in our love, yet humble in our expression.
Never underestimate the power of God to bring about what you pray for. God saves those we have been praying for for years!
When God brings the prodigal son or daughter home they are eternity’s miracle in the very day of life. The true prodigal will not turn back. We thank God as they restore our doubting faith in everyday miracles — the chrysalis of one life.
The turning of the prodigal is the greatest miracle in this age.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Prayer for Solace and Rediscovery

THIS is a prayer for anyone who seeks comfort, consolation and connection with themselves through what only God may give:
Gracious God of Heavens and Earth,
I break open before you, the needs of one who is betwixt and between, your servant: me. I do adore you for all you are and all that you have done — your greatness over all creation and your goodness in all of life. But I also wonder if you can be more and do more in this circumstance of my life.
I confess right now, my Father and my God, that I do feel the lack of one who is magnetically drawn to worship idols. I could list dozens of sources that regularly compete for attention — every single one vagrant of any real worth, and I know it! I look and I look and I look, and because I have nothing, it is only in you that I find. It is so unnatural to look to you — an invisible God — for the help I need, but I know now, as I remind myself, that you are the only help over the face of the world of my existence. Yet, because all I have is you, all I want is a help that would come immediately — and that, in my experience, is not commonly the help you provide.
There is a lack in my soul right now that only you might know, that only you might address, that only you might fix. But your fixes are long-term. You do not brush the desires away to be forfeited by a simple pleasure. There is a gap in my purpose that seems so interminably appended to my being. I feel estranged to this period in my life and even to the purpose you have apparently called me to. I confess this in your Presence knowing that you have every good thing to help me. How am I supposed to help others when I feel so inadequate for helping myself? Yet, in simply acknowledging my lack, there you are! — you are so ready to help. But can I be satisfied in your help? Can I have the temerity to stand before you and say such things?
Be gracious to me, Lord, and show me a sign, that you value me both for whom I am and for what capacity I have. Give me a sign that you have called me, and be patient with me for asking, I ask. Help me to know that I am called, even, as I contemplate my specious aridity; this season of soul vagrancy. And help me if this is an attack on the purity of grace you would otherwise give to me or bring to others through me. Lord, give me hope out of the present desolation; a purpose vanquished and never more to be found. Lord, forgive your servant this dip in contentment and be with me.
I ask this in Jesus’ precious name, always, AMEN.
Some prayers are hard. Others are brave. And then some are just brutally honest. This is a combination of all three.
Prayers expressed in honesty, steeped in courage, are hard prayers to pray. Hard prayers are the prayers God loves most.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Living Content In a Vexatious World

SITTING in a café, annoyed by the chatter of two older men who are speaking a language I don’t understand and using loud mannerisms, and I realise afresh:
“The problem is in you.”
SITTING in a café, annoyed by the interaction of one of the staff and her boyfriend, and I gain another perspective:
“The problem is in you.”
SITTING in a café, reflecting over two interactions at home earlier in the day, where my lack of patience and tolerance came to bear, and I see it again:
“The problem is in you.”
I am a sinner so in need of God, but my Lord is helping me, even as I sit in this café, “Steve, the problem is in you… but so, too, is my grace… my grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in your present weakness.”
As I take a look at these three situations, circumstances in my observation that grate at my pride that I cannot attune my environment perfectly, I recognise there is also something more to see.
The two older men are free to exchange their fondness for life with each other. They are uninhibited by others and they are breaking no law. They are enjoying life, in the midst of what could otherwise be anything other than happy.
The lady making the coffee seems a little loud, but she is enjoying her work, and the interaction with her boyfriend is not abusive to anyone.
My earlier interactions with my wife and my son lacked the love I’m otherwise known for. (We are all known, hopefully, as lovers of our families.) I missed an eternal moment and failed to reconcile what boiled within me.
I failed in all these circumstances to understand, the problem is in me.
There is, in most if not all these times, awareness that I am being tested. The test is of my flesh. The test is, can I comprehend, in the moment, that the problem is in me and not the other person or situation.
Can I surrender to the peaceable flow of the Spirit of God’s grace in me?
“The problem is in you — sin. Yet, so is the solution — God’s grace.”
The contented life lives knowing there are vexations all about. Grace helps.
Living contented in chaos is possible simply through knowing the problem is in us.
When we are moved to annoyance and anger because of what others do, we miss the opportunity to love them.
We miss the opportunity to love people when we fail to recognise our problems exist within us and not them.
Seeing the problem is in me and not others helps me see others are not the problem.
Accepting others is the way to contented living. Grace helps.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.