Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dogged by Recurrent Thoughts?

Lately I’ve been dogged by these recurrent thoughts. I’m sure you can relate. In this particular instance, I’ve been concerned--like many at my workplace--about the impact of proposed change to the organisation structure, the functions of roles affected, and alignment with new objectives.

Now, this change apparently doesn’t affect me as much as others, but there’s a little voice inside me that says there’s enough reason to think about it, and the general impacts. In any one hour I could think about this several times, cogitating for up to several minutes each time before recognising what is happening and then re-focussing.

And that is the point.

Any number of things can present concerns for us. We then end up in ‘looped’ thought patterns, which further entrench our thinking and perceptions. And this is the lie of our own fabricated reality; part true, sure, but missing some vital information and constructed upon at least some incorrect premises, assumptions no less.

The only way out of this dilemmatic thinking is to challenge it and be ever vigilant, disciplining our minds in the moment to get rid of the patterned thoughts the moment we become aware, toward the goal of doing this instantly the thoughts arrive.

The truth is this: from the organisational change, any amount of permeations might occur, none of which I’m likely to either predict or impact. So, why should I worry or even allow it to consume any of my energy by musing on it? It’s a waste of mental and emotional effort.

Yet, we’re all creatures of mental habit. We all tend to think on things too much, or at least most of us are like this. Our brains cycle in and out of the win/lose scenarios and we’re engaged emotionally and subconsciously, as well as consciously, most of the time.

Recurrent thoughts, unless we’re part of the actual problem or solution, can only be harmful.

We must train ourselves to not go there. We must become aware of how much these thoughts bear on us, and then resolve to do something about it.

The discipline involved, however, will not be easy, but it is achievable and entirely worth it in the longer run.

Let’s not settle for humdrum, unchallenged thinking.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, June 29, 2009

When Protégé Overtakes Mentor

Jealousy and envy metastasize. Like a malignant cancer, left unchecked and untreated, they grow and eventually kill, though in the case of envy, the death is a spiritual death, not physical. Both forms of cancerous death, however, act similarly--there's a spiralling out of control.

The following account of Saul and David illustrates this point:

"When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. As they danced, they sang: 'Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.' Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. 'They have credited David with tens of thousands,' he thought, 'but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?' And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David" -1 Samuel 18:6-9 (TNIV).

Saul had given David a start, and even though he had no idea that the LORD's favour and anointing had swung violently from him onto David, up until the time of the above passage, Saul openly welcomed David and David received Saul's genuine favour.

From this time on, however, he set about manufacturing plans for David's downfall, initially at the hand of the Philistines. The trouble was David kept on succeeding and this only intensified Saul's anxiety regarding him (vv. 28-29). Things only went from bad to worse for Saul, though David over and over again acted in faithfulness to Saul and therefore, ultimately, God. This proved the key to David's abiding in the LORD's favour.

This is a truth that works equally for us. If we train someone to do what we do, why would we not expect them to eventually take over? Sure, Saul wouldn't have expected David to take over his God-anointed throne, but the succession of players occurs in life--it has to or else life would not sustain itself.

The key for the successor in any walk of life is the factor of obedience; David was steadfastly obedient--at least until this stage in his life.

For us, if we hope to find a place beside (or even in front of) a mentor one day we must be unswervingly faithful to God. We're best to put our own desires, dreams, plans and priorities to one side and serve God and our people with undying, selfless commitment--no matter the result. If we end up honoured to succeed, it's got to be God's doing, not our own.

Our plans should not be about ourselves, but what we can do for God and others. This way we place ourselves in God's sovereign hands; this is the ultimate place to be, detached and free of self, and perfectly positioned to be blessed in bringing about change and success in whatever is our chosen field.

And if we're the mentor, we should prepare for, and celebrate the day when our protégé does take over. It may seem odd, but it is appropriate. As the mentor, we've done our job. Life has to go on without us at some point.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Inspiring Daytrip to Glenelg

Audrey Barker (85) accompanied us on the way to Glenelg. She shared with us her life and her family; keen as mustard she was to talk with someone and enjoy the day. We were glad to reciprocate. It made it interesting to think we struck a collective chord both on the way there and the way back.

I was impressed with Mrs. Barker's capacity, mentally and physically. She had vitality that a lot of people twenty years her junior don't have. And, I suspect, she sought us out from the far end of the Glenelg tram on the return trip to the city.

We talked about a great many things, not the least of which, the glory of life and the things to be seen, and paradoxically, the sadness of a life lived without a life partner for the past twenty-five years; yet, the legacy was effervescently precious.

She spoke with such fondness of her kids, grandkids, and great-grand kids and all their many passions, achievements and odd ways (which we all have) that made them so special. When she spoke there was a sense of time standing still.

Life for many is a lonely existence. Speaking with Mrs. Barker reminded me of the reason for our trip interstate. To spend a memorable day or three with my grandmother. Life for most elderly is an altogether lonely time. To think that the passing of a life partner with many years to run in life can bring a void to life making it a rather harsh reality.

Some would be tempted to shrink, as I'm sure Mrs. Barker had experienced. But life goes on eventually. The inspiring thing in interacting with this spritely octogenarian was she, like my Nanna, lived so much for others. Seemingly her only need was people to share her life with.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

The Kingdom Perspective – The ‘Comfy,’ Lost Christian

WARNING: Heavenly parental guidance recommended: this post contains explicit criticism of comfortable, lost Christians and church. Readers are asked to read this in the Presence of the Holy Spirit.

A good friend of mine was hurt by the Church, not once, but serially. We’ve all heard similar stories; pastors, members and church boards full of pride and blinded by legalism, traipsing all over their congregations in all their self-righteous glory; it doesn’t happen that often, but it does happen. Christians and churches can lose their way as good as anyone or any organisation.

The downward-spiralling pattern toward rampant disobedience and idolatry is one of the theological marks of the Bible. No one can deny this if they look at Judges, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. Even the Pentateuch is littered with stories of decline to moral relativism. Furthermore, Proverbs 1-9 (among other wisdom literature), instructionally, underscores time and again how persistently saved humanity wanders from the path of righteousness.

The example raised earlier of the friend ‘betrayed’ by his local church is a rarer phenomenon, however, to that of an all-too-common--and equally hazardous--problem in the Christian Church. The ‘comfy,’ lost Christian and church.

Of all the Christian problems there can be, there is usefulness checking them against the standard put to the seven churches in John’s time of Revelation. In the case of the comfy, lost Christian we can draw certain parallels with the churches in Ephesus, Sardis and Laodicea, but I want to focus mainly on the biblical example present in Sardis.

Sardis and Laodicea were both in comfortable positions, exposed to very little threat. And the church at Sardis was so comfortable that its reputation to outsiders of being ‘alive’ was a sham--a mark of self-deceit. It was the "perfect model of inoffensive Christianity."[1]

A church possibly infected by the world.

The irony here is the ‘name’ Sardis had was actually a cataclysmic weakness--‘alive’ but actually dead; diluted, docile, and a push-over and certainly of no serious benefit for the Kingdom of God.[2]

And now, let us come back abruptly to many of today’s typical Western churches, which, like every other generation in history, have the same challenges before it--the challenge of growing fat on the blessings of God.

This fatness comes at the expense of those to be served by this Christian and this church; those directly and indirectly in their path, those whom may be aided by their ministry, but never receive anything significant of God from these. The purpose of the Christian and the church, after all, at its end, is to serve.

We saw with the church at Ephesus that it had lost its first love. The comfy, lost Christian and church is not only growing fat, hoarding wealth, keeping itself safe, they have lost their first love. The mysticism and power of the Holy Spirit is lost to these. There is no spark of light or pungency of salt. Go on, yes, you see it now, don’t you?

If this Christian and this church don’t repent (change its mind and its approach) it will be spat out of Christ’s mouth.

The state and the country I live in is one of the richest, materially, in the world. Yet, there is still no shortage of complaint going around. What occurs in the world also has a habit of occurring in that microcosm called church.

I wonder. Is this a difficult word to swallow? Like a thief in the night the Lord comes.

Hypocritical, lazy, selfish, dead Christian and church: the fire of God is going to burn you to hell for your blasphemous and offensive ‘ministry’!

And to all the Christians and churches reading this who are genuinely preparing or are ready to meet God on that final day, I salute you. It is the purpose of our lives.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Acknowledgement to

Pastor Neville Stanway

who prompted some of these thoughts, though his word was less lambasting.


Craig R. Koester, Revelation and the End of All Things (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001), p. 67. Citing Caird, A Commentary (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 48.

Christopher C. Rowland, The Book of Revelation: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections – New Interpreters Bible Volume XII (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1998), p. 583.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Gran Torino - A Worthy Sacrifice

"The thing that haunts a man most is what he isn’t ordered to do" -Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino (2008)

Rarely do we actually experience real genuine sacrifice of note. The motion picture Gran Torino, produced and directed by Eastwood, however, presents a rousing story rooted in the sacrifice of one man's life for another younger man. It's a story caged in belief of character.

There are at least two deeply philosophical messages in Gran Torino for the interested analyst:

When pressed in life, detach, think, plan and stay calm--do not rouse the enemy

Set in a gangland cacophony, Kowalski's Korean War background is the Vesuvius the gangs don't expect. Toward the climax of the film when the be-friended Sue Lor (Ahney Her) is bashed and raped closed to death by the Asian gang lead by Sue's cousin, Kowalski retreats within himself. The enemy seemingly expects a quick retort.

Instead, like the Shaman warriors of Mexico, Kowalski retreats momentarily while the odds cannot be contended with. He detaches and thinks. He separates from himself for a short time. He stays calm and plans, providing the enemy eventually with a response they'd hardly expect.

The courage of sacrifice

The response is one that no one could expect. He gives his life so that young Thao (Bee Vang) can experience a normal life without the threat of the Asian gang hassling him. This sort of sacrifice--a life for a life--is something we hardly conceive. And this is exactly why Satan was defeated by Jesus. Satan in all his wisdom couldn't suppose to think like God. But, in Gran Torino, Kowalski did think like God.

Finally, the quote at top is chilling for us all. It is easy for us to absolve ourselves of responsibility or blame when we simply obey someone, rightly or wrongly, though our consciences still need reconciling. When we do things of our own volition, however, there's no going back--we live and die by our choices.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Parents' Greatest Gift to their Child(ren)

Almost every single parent, I'm sure, wants their child(ren) given the best start to life. I say almost because there are relatively few exceptions. We want to improve hope for our kids, and give them a better future than even we had. It's the parental prerogative. This desire speaks to our own brokenness, for we are all broken in some way or other. No parent is, or can be, perfect.

The greatest gift a parent can give their children, toward the end of that bright and hopeful future, is to love (truly selflessly love) their partner--not just any partner--but the other parent in the equation. The partner in the child-rearing stakes.

For the separated and divorced person (like for me and my present children) this won't make sense; the other parent is no longer partner--but to truly love the other parent for our children's sake is a non-negotiable, if we really want what's best for our children. I'll explain why.

Children need not love first, but security. They need to know that Mum and Dad are 'good' together, that their world (parents are a child's 'world') is not going to break apart in an instant. They need to know this deep within. They need to see a genuine mutual heartfelt respect occurring. They don't want to see Mum or Dad hurt, and especially not by each other. That's like a worst fear for them.

Unfortunately, many parents can't provide for this first need--in the proper sense; I'm acutely aware of my own situation. So how do we compensate? Well, it just so happens, in my view, that compensation is the key concept.

The way I compensate is I try to love my former wife by supporting her as far as the children go in every way I can, and even in ways that I often can't i.e. I'll try to go out of my way. I don't always succeed, and every now and then there is conflict; I know she doesn't feel supported one hundred percent of the time--yet that's my goal.

For the large part I succeed. When I upset her I promptly say sorry and make amends if I can--sometimes I can't appease her but that's okay--so long as my intent is right. I know my children are grateful. And it's a model to them how to treat their future partner.

(For widows and widowers, keeping their deceased partner's memory alive, in love, would seemingly be critical to the compensating process.)

For parents of a complete first family home, as yet 'unblended,' please realise that you have it all, structurally--please work on it. Work on your marriage all the time and develop a family history and tradition. It's the most important thing anyone can do.

Giving our kids hope is about giving them security, and their basis of security right through even the teen years is you; Mum and Dad. Love each other.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Acknowledgement to Gary & Anne Marie Ezzo, Let the Children Come Along the Virtuous Way: Growing Kids God's Way (Happy Valley, South Australia: Growing Families Australia, 2002).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Helen Keller's Threefold Theology of Thanks

"For three things I thank God every day of my life--that he has vouchsafed my knowledge of His works, deep thanks that He has set in my darkness the lamp of my faith, deep, deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to--a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song" -Helen Keller.

1. God's Works of Faithfulness

Keller, like the prophets and historians of old, lauds the God of deliverance in history. He has consistently delivered up the oppressed; those who've turned back to him.

We know God's faithfulness by what he has done, by what he does now, and by what he has promised from the beginning of time. How could we not be truly thankful?

2. God Shows us to Faith

In all our darkness, he is there. Always is, always will be--ever present. Keller found her faith in the midst of darkness like so many of us have. She said,

"Often when the heart is torn with sorrow, spiritually we wander like a traveller lost in a deep wood. We grow frightened, lose all sense of direction, batter ourselves against trees and rocks in our attempt to find a path. All the while there is a path--the path of Faith--that leads straight out of the dense tangle of our difficulties into the open road we are seeking."

This describes faith saliently and profoundly for us. Like God's delivering of the oppressed, only the desperate, contrite heart--the person who's been scourged as same--can truly know God, surely.

3. We are Thankful for Heaven

If and when heaven is instituted on earth, there will be four transforming lights about it, according to Keller: Liberty, Truth, Brotherhood, and Service. These are the marks of the Kingdom of God on earth.

Keller had a life to look forward to in heaven, from that on earth, which compared a "humble and uncomfortable house to a mansion."


Helen Keller would no doubt have led a far deeper life than the average person could hope to, being so afflicted by disabling lack of sight and hearing; yet, she could see the twisted irony, and could be thankful for it, eternally. She perhaps found faith easier; she needed it. Yet we all need it.

Her faith both came from, and was triggered by, thankfulness.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Quotes and inspiration from Helen Keller, The Faith of Helen Keller (Kansas City, Missouri: Hallmark Cards, Inc., 1967), pp. 21, 32-33, 36.

The Length of One Lifetime

Can you imagine for a moment one of those science shows on television; perhaps it’s a documentary, and it’s on covering the lifespan of one human life, from birth until death. It’s a narrated time-lapse visual testimony of the physical growth of this person, together with the melding of all their different experiences on earth.

Imagine watching the physical development of the body perhaps in a supine, naked position, with one frame representing a week of life. For a life of ninety years there would be 4,680 frames or still photographs on that take of film. The film would last less than ten minutes in duration.

Interposed with the physical development and then aging of the body, on a separate piece of film, is all the different experiences that person would experience. All the people they’d meet, all the places they’d visit, all the jobs they’d have etc. This gives us the perception that rather a lot could be crammed into that equivalent of a sub 10-minute film.

How much of life on earth would we have tasted… the foods, the emotions, ownership of things, the sights, the phases of life, and life in relationship? These are but some, a mere smattering, of the picture of the lived life.

And we know it, that even over ten years there’s so much experienced, so many things learned, and so many mistakes made, yet we somehow get through. No wonder we think life will never come to an end--it seems so long.

The truth is, however, the day we meet our Maker will soon be upon us. We don’t have a choice over this inevitable fact. We can only decide how to live now. And as the next generation of humanity takes over, when we’re long gone, what will we have been known for during our brief time here?

We live at times in ways as if we were going to live forever; at least some of our plans are pitched in the eternal. As we plan, we deceive ourselves into not thinking and not considering our fragile existence. And thinking about some of the ‘brave’ (a.k.a. foolish) risks we’ve taken that have denied death--these too are paradoxically veiled in our own denial that death is even a remote possibility.

The time will come when all that youth has gone, and what will we have to show for it? That must make us all sit up to attention. If we care.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

How Big is Your Territory? Too Small? Too Big?

Recall the scene from Bruce Almighty (2003) where God and Bruce are doing a little measuring of progress. It runs like this:

GOD (Morgan Freeman) – You aren’t listening, son. Let’s see, you’ve had my powers for over a week now and how many people have you helped?

BRUCE (Jim Carrey) – Okay, so maybe I've righted a couple of the wrongs in my own life. I was going to get around to others. I can do both. I can help the world.

GOD The world? That wasn’t the world, Bruce. That was just Buffalo, between 57th Street and Commonwealth. I didn’t want to start you out with more than you can handle.[1]
The truth is we all have a certain territory or bounds within the scope of our ‘field of play.’

We have all been given certain responsibilities and it’s strangely bizarre that some of us resent these. We’d seemingly want more or less responsibility if we had the freedom to design it so.

The truth is God will not give us more than we can safely (very safely) handle.[2] That promotion we seek at work… it won’t come until we’re genuinely ready, so there’s no point getting impatient about it. We’ll only dash our slim chances if we get frustrated.

And again, there are some of us who’re not at all happy because life is just too plain hard--there’s too much responsibility. Life’s not going to get any easier for us in our whinging and complaining. And our miracle-working God is not going to be fazed in the slightest with our tantrums of discontent.

God will broaden our territories when we’re ready and he has a purpose for it. God will lessen our responsibilities, bringing us comparative freedom, in his good time.

We’re in this place, the place we find ourselves in, for a reason. There is a purpose to it. Our purpose is to find meaning in our ‘place’ right now, and make it our utopia (good place).

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.
[1] Source: http://www.weeklyscript.com/Bruce%20Almighty.txt
[2] See 1 Corinthians 10:13, especially the New Living Translation which has, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” This was meant in a different context to that of the present discussion, but I believe the same principle holds.
POST SCRIPT: We should pray that God doesn’t eventually relent to our immature requests. That happened to me once; he eventually let me have my own way after I insisted on it so much. It proved to be a downfall for me; one that I regret even today.

Switch Your Thinking... Toward Life, Abundant

I have a water bottle that advertises three companies’ alliance in saving energy and natural resources. It has a slogan plastered over it: “Switch your thinking! A small change can make a big difference.”

It’s amazing that a secular collective can hit on such a spiritual monster.

In his master epistle to the Romans, Paul urges them practically:

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” –Romans 12:2 (NLT).
In one swift movement we confound the wiles of the enemy--as to the so-called material ‘fruit’ and morals in and of this world--and turn our minds (switch our thinking) about face. We in effect, repent. Metanoia is the Greek-based name meaning to repent, which essentially means to ‘change our thinking or mind.’ It’s the transformation of the heart.

And when we do this we open ourselves up to the transformation that a wondrous God can bring. When this occurs, changing our old and bad habits--the ones we’ve tried to shake for years--doesn’t become so horribly difficult, because we have divine help. Our minds are renewed and suddenly we feel anything is possible. We, in God’s name, are creators of our own destinies.
God starts communicating with us in this transformed state and he enlightens us to the things he wishes we transform for ourselves, with the help of the Holy Spirit. We can at last see the real purpose in life; the purpose we’ve always searched for.

Indeed, getting back to that secular-originated message on my water bottle, a small change can make a big difference. Ask yourself, what’s in it for this guy (that’s me) to talk about God all the time?

I want you to have what I’ve got. It’s the most beautiful thing to have a beautiful mind, full of the treasures of God--a garden of love, full of truth and light--a mind after the truly compassionate heart of God.

And God wants that for you as much as he ever wanted it for me. He seeks you and will never give up. He is yours already. It’s simply a matter of acceptance. He is a free gift.

You can receive him, today. He waits for you. And all his angels in heaven have baited breath waiting to rejoice in your home coming! This life is not ho-hum; it’s truly amazing.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Running Off Course?

You’re driving in traffic one day following the car in front like you do and next thing the most bizarre thing happens. That car in front starts gently veering from the roadway, and enters the emergency stopping lane without correcting… it even continues, further and further away from you. By this stage, the car is in the bush, has maintained its speed, and it and its driver look bound for disaster.

It’s at this point you wake up, in a lather of perspiration. It was only a dream after all.

But the dream is synonymous for straying from the right path in life. It is, after all, a salient biblical concept; there’s an ‘ancient path’ for us to stay upon (Jeremiah 6:16), and a crooked path for us to avoid.

It is said that ‘the path of upright is a level highway, but the way of the lazy is overgrown with thorns.’ (Proverbs 15:19 NRSV Modified) The same principle holds generally if we substitute the word ‘lazy’ with ‘greedy,’ ‘angry,’ or ‘envious’ etc. On the other hand, the paths of righteousness and justice are the way to life (Proverbs 8:20; 12:28).

It is unfortunately our human nature to run off course.

We do it all by ourselves and with no need of ‘help,’ though the wrong people and situations certainly can augment and hasten our ruin. As the bush that the veering car has to negotiate is full of hazards, so is a life run off the rails of God’s design for it--even for one day!

Watching the driver run off the road in your dream probably would make you cringe. To foresee the perilous end before it comes is harrowing. I recall seeing film of a man atop an electric train. What a horrible thought to brace yourself to view a person’s death, knowing what is about to happen.

And running off the designated path is the same thing; not physical death perhaps, but spiritual death, certainly. The beauty of spiritual death, however, is we can be resurrected any time we choose to turn back to the right path and back to God.

And the nature of life with God is just that. It is finding our way back onto the right path, and back into his favour, together with all of his good blessings for obediently, willingly following the One, the only living, Triune, God.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 26, 2009

When Terror Reigns...

The world knows it’s in trouble when a dictator looms large on a national scene. The most recent public demonstration of this has been in Zimbabwe, but genocide anywhere is a good indication. Yet, we’ve all been affected in our little worlds by the corrupt, greedy, insane ‘ruler’ in our midsts, whether it was a boss at work, a partner, or even a peer--all via bullying, harassment, unfair goading etc.

There’s a cool string of proverbs that speak of the terror-wielding psychopath; a ‘rule’ we can all somewhat identify with. This might only to some extent characterise the situation you find yourself in, or have done in the past, but listen up all the same. It’s an ever-present potential reality.

“When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding” –Proverbs 28:12

“When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy” –Proverbs 11:10

“When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive” –Proverbs 28:28

“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan” –Proverbs 29:2

“When the wicked thrive, so does sin, but the righteous will see their downfall” –Proverbs 29:16
So what’s the overriding theme?--the guts of the truth. It almost seems obvious that when freedom and peace are striven for, everyone gets a fair slice of life, and general contentment can prevail.

The main hope is that such a crooked reign, whether in the workplace, in the home, or in any bad association we might have, can only last a time before God chooses to act in his sovereign way. Often his way is so unpredictable and inconceivable beforehand, we know it to be the hand of God.

There is great rejoicing when people see justice occur. And it does and will happen. Wait and see. It’s inevitable. People’s exultation is the prize for the righteous leader seeking peace, fairness and justice for all the downhearted.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

All Scripture quotations from the TNIV.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Reality is Not Your Reality

There’s never been a truer word, though there are plenty as truthful. We naturally seek evidence in life that backs our worldview and our biases will never really cater for the person who has a polar opposite worldview. More is the pity.

Take it further, and we all know people who see the world as either an unjust place or a just place. There are probably equal numbers of people in both camps. The truth, of course, is both are right. The world is at times just and at other times it’s unjust. And even in those times anyone can see the unjustness in the just time and vice versa.

Both views of the world are visible. Just because we don’t agree doesn’t mean it’s not there for the next person. How incredible it is that we can all see so differently in the first place!

So, what’s the better worldview? A just, fair world of opportunity or a world that’s loaded with despair and basically unfair and unjust? You tell me.

I know if I have my choice what I choose. It is to see the world as it is--in that moment. I would like to be able to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; [and] mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15 TNIV)

The trouble is we don’t see things that rationally most of the time; but we can if we choose to. But, to do it requires a commitment to see and live in truth to the banishment of negative emotions that sway the heart inordinately.

There’s another truth. There’s nothing quite like an even, fair-minded worldview.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Believe in Yourself!

Most of us live in a cocoon of fear. If it’s not one thing we’re afraid of it’s another. What with financial stresses, employment uncertainties, relationships at work, problems with children, their schools etc it’s one merry-go-round of anxiety after another. We could be forgiven for thinking this is the only way.

Fortunately it isn’t the only way. There’s an infinitely better way and it’s all about faith; a faith even more simplistic than a faith in God perhaps (as so many baulk at God--though in my experience, the God-concept is pretty simple).

This is as simple as making the choice to see the virtue within you and setting out to replicate it and build on it. Virtue contributes to faith and faith brings a zest for living. Part of this is deliberately choosing to see others positive views of you. See their views of you as positive. It will help your self-esteem.

And the result, over time, is an increasing and welling up of positive confidence that will set you up for future success and so on and so on. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. But, it will only work if you’re growing genuinely in virtue i.e. being more thankful, positive, kind etc.

It’s often said that if we don’t believe in ourselves, who will (apart from a handful of close others)?

It’s strange how believing in yourself and not condemning yourself can be so powerful. Suddenly, without the chains and shackles of despair and rejection holding us down, we’re able to soar like eagles--and be the way we were always meant to be.

Give yourself another second chance. Believe in yourself: your abilities, your ideas, your resilience to get through your tough situation right now, and finally, your character.

Life was never meant to beat us down. No matter what is against you, you can prove the greatest inspiration, even to yourself.

Stay positive and build on it.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Simply Making the Right Choices

It’s interesting to note that in the general sense there’s a godly order to this world. This order is suggested in the Wisdom literature, and certainly that contained within the Bible. Secular life is not that different from the spiritual--there’s a cause and effect nature that goes on, particularly in response to the acts of people.

For example, self-serving needs are seen for what they are. The secular world sees this behaviour dubiously and people detract and separate themselves from this instinctively. It’s just not that endearing.

I found a section of Psalm 119 that speaks of the psalmist’s love of good and hate of evil. Even though this is at the extreme end regarding absolute faithfulness to God, it dovetails somewhat with our experience of evil in everyday life.

Verse 118 says, “You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their delusions come to nothing.” (TNIV) I have found that the self-serving person, particularly someone in leadership, or with power, carries with them a sense of the deluded. They’ve been deceived, having fallen for their own lies in many cases. Natural justice might determine their end we might suppose.

In this section, from verses 113-120, the psalmist sees and delights in the active working of God’s law for righteousness and against wickedness. “The fire that cleanses gold, consumes dross.”[1] So, in this, there’s the logical working of the law for the purposes of good and against evil.

God’s action, in how he uses people and situations for his righteous ends, is clinical. There’s not even any use fighting it; throughout the history of the world, this has been seen time and again.

And this is the reason for our faith: that we might believe unceasingly that this is a general rule which works roughly every time. And our approach to those who might seek to twist things toward their own advantage should be a lesson for us. We’d do that to our eventual peril.

The key reason to come to maturity in life is to approach, and become reconciled to, morality. We must become good at discerning and obeying God’s moral laws. If we cannot understand and accept God’s moral code we cannot succeed in life, period.

The more wholeheartedly we can distance our selfish selves from actually getting what we want in life the closer we might actually get in achieving them.

We must reconcile ourselves to making choices devoid of personal interest, for that is personal freedom.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

[1] W. Graham Scroggie, A Guide to the Psalms – Volume 3 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1995), p. 184.

Thinking & Acting on Manual

Every time we have a mishap, almost without exception, it is due to some sort of lapse, error, mistake, calculated risk or violation. If we were children, we could almost certainly be characterised as either childish (unintentional motivation) or foolish (intentional motivation) in these situations.

The trouble is we’re all fallible humans. No matter the planning and any amount of risk mitigation we put in, there will still be incidents. Some are because we intentionally violated the rules; others because we just didn’t think. Some others, further, because others didn’t think and we’re caught between the proverbial rock and hard place.

Natural consequences come to bear.

It’s like me walking along a paved pathway. The slightest irregularity in the butted pavers or slabs is an ever-present hazard. You guessed it, if anyone’s going to have an embarrassing slip it will be me! I have the clumsy gene.

About the best thing we can do to lessen our chances of having mishaps entirely is learning how to think manually and then do this eventually (over time) in automatic.

To think and act manually means staying present, and thinking with focus in the present world context and acting accordingly. For instance, when we walk we focus on the actual placement of the foot with our proprioceptive senses alive to all irregularities so our body responds appropriately and safely. Result: no sprained ankle or knee when the ground gives way, or we miss our footing, as happens occasionally does.

This works in every way we use our bodies. The following steps are exercises for building manual thinking/acting, excerpted from You Lead, They’ll Follow:[1]

  • “Frequently stop and ask yourself the key awareness question: ‘Right here, right now, what is happening, internally and externally?’

  • “Every half-hour stop whatever you are doing and ask the key awareness question.

  • “Every time you change direction, whether walking, turning your head or moving differently, ask yourself the key awareness question.

  • “Constantly practice being your own silent non-judgmental observer or witness.”

This might appear to warrant an excessive amount of concentration. It actually works in reverse to this. I believe we actually build more capacity and broader focus capabilities when we build our thinking/acting manual skills. It’s a mental discipline and skill that almost anyone can learn if they’re determined to.

And it’s not only going to help us not make slips and mistakes with our safety, it will also alert us to bad moral choices and failures too.

Think of the person deceived over time to enter into an affair. They’re clearly not thinking manually, logically. They’re living a fantasy, which is heavily contingent on the thinking of both the past and future, but executed in the dangerous present.

Also, when we take the easy way out (which is an immoral choice) we’re choosing to ignore the present needs for both ourselves and others affected. There’s a delusion present, and because we aren’t i.e. present, we go blissfully unaware of the fact. Ignorance reigns.

The present holds the key to our lives. It’s the place of universal influence as we create our own futures using the God-given potential we all possess.

Embrace it; the present!

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Acknowledgement: Daniel Kehoe, You Lead, They'll Follow: How to inspire, lead and manage people. Really. Vol. 3 (North Ryde, NSW: McGraw-Hill Australia, 2004), p. 74-75. Material in this article comes from these two pages of the book. Daniel Kehoe acknowledges the contributor, David Deane-Spread, as the author of this particular material.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

‘Value Adding’ Time – Toward Real & Lasting Peace

There’s a key task we all have in life. It is to ensure our time is maximised by doing as many worthwhile value adding things as we can in the time we get.

In quality management circles (recall it was all the rage in business back in the 1990s) the term ‘value adding’ was synonymous for what you sought as indicating what stayed, and what was promoted as ‘quality.’ Business generally sought to raise the percentage of value adding work they did to the lessening of work that didn’t add value. As a result, much work was ‘outsourced.’ Contractors become popular and whole business units were sold off.

There’s a relationship between how modern business is arranged and our personal lives.

People these days have often taken value adding too far regarding their time as they cram in there all sorts of ‘good’ activities; but sometimes it’s simply too much.

As a result, there’s a lack of peace in the overly busy ‘quality’ life. And there’s also the distinct possibility, in our derision, we can be moved far off our track in life, succumbing to more waste than ever.

We can easily take value adding activities too far, can’t we? This is acknowledging that balance is more difficult to achieve than we’d like it to be; especially these days.

Somehow we must redefine quality regarding its meaning in our lives. And if we come back to the definition we’ll quickly define core work and jettison the rest i.e. outsource it by discontinuing it, getting someone else to do it, or by doing it, or getting it done, in a different way.

A quality life could be defined by the compilation of a good many things, all in balance, with tensions between activities reduced such that we are achieving our purpose(s) whilst gaining fulfilment of that fact.

We can’t have life all ways. The more we cram in the more we will distance ourselves from true peace and shalom. There’s no use or sense in doing an enjoyable thing if we can’t do it peacefully. Sometimes these so-called good things create turmoil.

And true peace and shalom is accepting that we’ll never have it all, and we’ll never reconcile ourselves to the ultimate peace, apart from God.

This is about really focusing and directing our lives--taking personal responsibility for “us.”

Many times less is more. The more you can survive on less, the more peace you will get.

It really is that simple.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

If Only Others Could Find What You’ve Found

This above was a statement read out on one of my favourite radio stations, a Christian radio station. I think their rationale is about being funded enough by donations that they might continue spreading the message of hope throughout Perth, Western Australia and beyond... even over the entire globe via the internet.

But, this statement is very personally relevant for we all have things we feel passionate about--and passionate enough to share. Whether it’s a passion for football, Holden cars, meat pies, or scrapbooking, or anything else, the eyes light up and the heart simply wants to express the joy of this pastime.

Personally, there is nothing I feel more passionate about than spirituality and matters of God. I find it amazing and awesome what God can do both throughout the known universe and in one small life. At both extremes he’s utterly attentive and doesn’t miss a beat.

And I often think, ‘If only others could find what I have now found.’ It’s true. I find all the indwelling wisdom and truth known to humankind in the personhood of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit--for God is Spirit--always has been, is presently, and will be forever.

So, how does God fit into the context of a fun and meaningful life? Don’t we have to live a trite existence to truly believe in God? Not at all...

In many ways my life and my worldview has grown exponentially (and continues to) and certainly regarding my capacity for life, my relationships, energy levels, enthusiasm, openness and passion.

God has done so much for me, and he continues to. To believe in God, genuinely, is a thankful existence. Thankfulness promotes hope, love and faith--it’s the parent of all virtue.

It’s a thankfulness that I know that Jesus Christ came to live this life, just like me; but he suffered an ignoble and gruesome death, and I (like many others I know) don’t often enough make anywhere near that type of sacrifice. And not only that; Jesus, this man who was only later found commonly to be God, died, I believe, for my sins (and yours)--past, present and future.

The best thing is that I am no longer condemned for the wrongs I create in my own flesh. Not only do I recognise (for the most part) all the wrongs I’m into, my faith helps me make these wrongs right--as far as it depends on me. So, I rarely experience much guilt or shame, and any guilt or shame I do experience is despatched promptly as I actively deal with it.

Finally, I have learned to love and desire truth. I can live courageously and even forego my own rights most of the time, and do it cheerfully, for I know that God provides. And what I don’t get I don’t want.

I could go on and on and on... Jesus fills my life like nothing else or no one else can! He is purpose for living, pure and simple.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Transitions of Change – Getting it Right

Change catches us all by surprise at times. When we least expect it, it comes gallantly from left field and our unsuspecting hearts and minds are trapped in a profusion of chaotic feelings and thoughts--we’re all at sea.

Recently there was a re-organisation of sorts at an unmentioned workplace; one a colleague of mine is engaged at. A consultant was brought in to analyse needs, and the long and the short of it was a cleverly-managed change process took place. Selectively divisions and positions were tweaked and sorted; new positions created--fresh relationships formed and existing ones severed. Nothing to see here; it happens everywhere, all the time.

The classic thing this organisation did was it gave those most affected time to get used to the idea.

I thought of the same thing in the home. When we require one of the family to adopt a change, we best do it in a friendly environment where there’s time for feelings to adjust, and to sort of catch up mentally and emotionally with the ‘new’ reality of things.

Allowing those required to change the time to assimilate the new reality that’s effectively foisted on them is the least the change agent should do. And they need a certain patience with the notorious ‘slow adjuster,’ who just seems intent on stressing about every little detail, whether it’s in their control or not. Yep, for every change there’s at least one of these.

As people we get pretty darn attached to our created world and worldviews, don’t we? We’re creatures of habit who don’t like change much. Of course, there are exceptions. Some love the challenge of change, but perhaps to the derision of those who can’t stand it.

But it also begs the imperative, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Against the Idolatry We All Get Into

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” –Psalm 73:25 (TNIV).
We’re all guilty, in the strictest sense, of this sin against God. But in his grace, God does not convict us--though we ought to convict ourselves. We’re guilty of idolatry, every single one of us--almost without exception. If we care we should allow the Holy Spirit to convict us toward repenting of it each time we fall into its snare.

Idolatry is the “worship of deity made visible, whether of true or false ideas, in images, pictures, stars, fire, or ideal statements, as shown in business pursuits or pleasure, or for honor, where self if preferred above the honor and glory of God.”[1]

Common forms of idolatry today involve worship of food and drink, football teams, pornography (both soft and hard varieties), money, cars and other possessions, and even our children (and grandchildren). Ambition is often idolatrous--like the thoughts of striving for that promotion. When we seek glory for ourselves, also, we fall. Whenever we lose self-control of our desires or achieve imbalance we’ve entered idolatrous territory.

By this I mean, whenever we put God into the shade and put the thing or pursuit up in his place, we’ve fallen for it. I know that I seem to constantly struggle with portion control regarding my diet, yet I only struggle when I’ve not asked God to replace this desire with more of him.

Like most men, I might notice a pretty woman walk past and be tempted to admire the created thing, not the Creator. For God this must be maddening! This is not because he’s so vain that he needs our worship, for God does not need our worship; he knows, however, that we need to worship him for our own good.

Simple life rule: worship not the created thing and we at once realise true freedom and perspective.

Yet, a continuing success over idolatry is a day by day affair contingent on our relationship with God. There is nothing more difficult--to steer constantly clear of idolatry; but an approach toward an unstinting commitment to growing in God is a fervent defence. It is the power of God over evil that triumphs each and every time. Like with most things, we either go forwards or backwards in life--there’s no standing still.

This is not just about being a Bible-believing Christian--it’s very much about leading a successful life, for no one who engages in rampant idolatry succeeds in life for long. It’s only wise to worship God.

Worship the Creator or you will worship the created thing. If we take the approach of the psalmist at top, however, we will be truly saved, one pure and perfect moment after another. And it’s the closest thing to reality; the earth has nothing on God.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Smith’s, Bible Dictionary (Ohio, Barbour Publishing, 1937), p. 134.

5 Principles of High Performing Teams

“High performing teams don’t live in isolation, they must actually impact upon organisational goals to be great” –Professor John Milton-Smith.
The quote above means high performing teams can only truly be defined as great by their interaction and impact. There are various principles involved in achieving a high performing team. These below are some that were discussed at a recent leadership session I attended together with my commentary.

1. Common Goals

This is seemingly the most important principle driving the high performing team toward success--as their organisation defines it. Notwithstanding nuisance factors--which see high performing teams work well even in potentially high conflict situations--shared objectives are implicit of their values, for values must almost always underpin our goals.

2. Good Leadership

Leadership, as we all suspect, is about results; tangible evidence of success through a true method revealed later as just that: leadership. Leadership is a vehicle to team success, for in all teams there must be leadership. High performance teams don’t act in a vacuum. They thrive (and don’t just survive) on good leadership principles. Team members are inspired by their leader whereas team members ‘endure’ their manager.

3. Effective Communications

No elite team ever succeeds without an underpinning commitment to, and consistency and ease of, communication. Not only is it effective, it’s often inspiring. In other words, effective communications is inspiring (like poetry in motion) as it so rarely happens. Effective communications is at the centre of inspiring team outcomes as much as ineffective communications is at the centre of incidents, anomalies and failure.

4. Role Clarity

Team members of the team know what’s expected of them and that fits also with their individual passion and skill set. Not only that, but they can adapt, swinging in for infirmed team members at late notice because they see the opportunity to contribute to the team--seeing their overall role as somewhat broader than the specific role they normally fill. In other words, they know the bigger picture is bigger than just their specific role and they support it unreservedly.

5. Willingness to Challenge and Change

This takes courage, individually and collectively. To be able to embrace change openly takes both faith and commitment. A high performing team empowers all team members to openly challenge in an environment free of fear. There are no repercussions to be seen.

In fact, the effective leader encourages the challenging of the status quo, for they are not afraid of the truth. They realise that the truth can only liberate us. They realise that changing something in truth i.e. reacting to truth, to the satisfaction of a team member or the team as a whole, is a win/win situation. They do it, therefore, willingly and enthusiastically.

Finally, there’s a bond of maturity that envelopes the high performing team, both individually and collectively. Acceptance runs rife and rejection, itself, is rejected. Trust underpins it all, pervading the culture of the team like an everlasting stream.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Faith’s Paradox: It’s a Sort of ‘Reverse Denial’

It doesn’t seem to make sense, faith. It involves the abject denial, at times, of the ‘seen’ reality but in a way that’s entirely healthy (assuming it’s ‘good faith’). Denial, ordinarily, is something to avoid--it can only normally hamper us in the face of harmful influences that prove abusive, for instance. But faith uses the technique of denial to courageously go on past the inevitable lies given us in this world, onto the true revelation.

Faith is the ability to cast into the question the things we think we know, in favour of open consideration of matters, in search of truth. It’s patience in a hostile environment. It belongs to a chief virtue, trust.

Trust combines faith with courage, honesty, love, kindness, patience, forgiveness, grace, gratitude, acceptance, detachment, openness, perseverance and hope. These are qualities foreign to the world, for the world most often cannot understand or explain them; and when it can it frames them as part of a super-special sales technique, bringing in unsuspecting punters on the back of veiled but plain spiritual truth.

Faith is the answer to being effective in an overly neurotic world. With faith we can be a friend to all without encumbrance. We go into all situations and faith precludes none, but it works cooperatively with prudence to protect, and provide for, our safety and wellbeing. Faith doesn’t look the gift horse in the mouth, but accepts what comes for what it is.

Faith chooses to see the best in most things; it opts for the potential and possibilities, withholding judgment, rather than acting prematurely on only what is seen. It takes the witnessed event into account, sure, but it doesn’t leave it there. It patiently waits beyond reason, for no one can tell why faith doesn’t act predictably--but like creativity (its close cousin) faith can be justified sufficiently through 20/20 hindsight. It just makes sense when looking back and in this way it’s inspirational--it’s the stuff of most current-affairs feel-good stories.

Faith understands that the true reality is beyond the ‘seen’ environment. It somehow understands all realms. It keeps its eyes and ears well open and doesn’t fall for ignorance or arrogance.

Faith, finally, is responsible for receiving and accepting the life-giving message of grace. It hears, it considers, it weighs, and it decides… it goes with commitment onto the final revelation, denying the foolish calls of those non-trusting entities warning of the traps of faith--a.k.a. the lies of the Devil--that never ever appear or come to fruition.

Faith holds sway in the depths of torment and is the difference, ultimately, between spiritual life and death. She, alone, is the prime objective.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Fn(Difficulty + Faith, Love & Hope) = Thank-filled Hope

“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” –1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (TNIV).
We read here Paul’s thankfulness for the believers at the capital of the province of Macedonia, for he and the faithful there had experienced much vigilant opposition (Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 1:6). At Thessalonica there had been rioting and revolt. This had all been brought about by Satan’s virulent presence there at the time--through some jealous Jews who’d ‘rounded up some bad characters’--and this even prevented Paul’s planned return (Acts 17:5-9; 1 Thess. 2:18).

Paul is ironically humble and thankful regarding these trials, however. Though he is ‘orphaned’[1] and effectively separated from the Thessalonians ‘for a (short) time--even an hour,’[2] he reflects thankfully on their mutual faithfulness in the Holy Spirit.

And this seed-bed environment of ‘severe suffering,’ together with the welcoming of the Holy Spirit with joy manifest through faith, love and hope, produces a thank-filled hope beyond the clutches of the world. And Paul is further glad of this, because the faithful in Thessalonica were models to people all through Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thess. 1:7-8), and even to us, today, in how to approach the genuine Christian life, through a working faith, love and hope.

In fact, this is a biblical principle. “The history of the churches in Macedonia teaches us that suffering is the matrix out of which strong and healthy churches [and Christians] can emerge.”[3] Indeed, anyone--and this is the truth and wisdom of universal law--can draw strength and health and hope from, and upon, the endurance of suffering.


Paul lauds the ‘grace by faith’ tradition in all his letters, particularly Galatians and Romans, but here he places it in context with works, agreeing with James.[4] Faith does produce works. Good work does bear fruit.


Love is the goad behind all true good works, by virtue of its mystically motivating and innately self-propelling action. Love cannot hope to hold back. It sees a need and enters the fray, urgently, willingly, but never forcefully. We always work best, and in joyous candour, when love stokes our furnace.


Isn’t it supposed to be, ‘faith, hope, love,’ and in that order? Not in this instance. The underpinning premise is hope. “True faith’s work is never wasted, real love’s labour is never lost, hope’s resilience is never disappointed.”[5]

And hope leads us to thankfulness...

Thank-Filled Hope

Hope precedes thankfulness, for we cannot be thankful without being hopeful. Hopefulness propels us to where thankfulness is bound i.e. from reflection. And also hope succeeds thankfulness; one informs the other. Hope leads to thankfulness which further leads to hope and so on.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.
[1] 1 Thess. 2:17. Wesley J Perschbacher (ed), The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1990), p. 47. The Greek word (Strong’s #642) aporphaniso means ‘to deprive, bereave.’
[2] This is the literal Greek rendering, though it is unlikely it means a literal ‘hour’ as we determine it in our culture.
[3] Ajith Fernando, The NIV Application Commentary: Acts (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998), p. 468.
[4] See also Acts 26:20 where Paul said before King Agrippa, “… I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.” (TNIV) (Italics added.)
[5] Philip Greenslade, 1 & 2 Thessalonians: The Coming that Completes the Story (Farnham, Surrey: Crusade for World Revival, 2004), p. 29.

Truly ‘Saved’? – Two Sides to Sanctification

Something happens to the newly ‘saved’ person via the indwelling, enlivened, and enabled Holy Spirit--the Spirit that was always there--but dormant--foregoing the acceptance of God on the psyche of the person housing the Spirit. The Spirit kick-starts real spiritual growth for the very first time.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines sanctification as, “the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion.”[1]

So, the newly ‘saved’ person undergoes a sudden or gradual very personal transformation, in grace, commencing from the very present time of their salvation experience. There are two sides to this transaction immediately apparent to me:

My new view of God

The first time I was ‘saved’ I’m not sure I really was, now. I felt different somehow and some of my experience was strange, and I naturally attributed it as the newfound life ‘in Christ.’ But this new experience did nothing much really to transform me toward growth in grace. Sure, I grew in knowledge and said and did all (or mostly all!) of the right things. But, I didn’t truly know why it was important. It had reached my head but not my heart.

I believe many Christians have had experiences like my first one. They simply joined ‘the club.’ They prayed the believer’s prayer and meant it (sort of) at the time. Perhaps they were swept up in the emotion of the moment? Either way, they weren’t disciple properly afterward or they didn’t have the true salvation experience in the first place.[2]

Sanctification is truly the best indication that a newly saved Christian is truly, actually in right relationship with God i.e. they have truly come to appreciate, via a divinely spiritual experience, the void in their life without God. They have come to the very end of themselves. I don’t believe anyone can be truly ‘saved’ without knowing the ruin of life without God.

My second salvation experience was a divinely designed and pre-destined event (and perhaps the first was too). Suddenly I desired God to be first. He had to be first. I could not live any longer without a burning desire after the heart of God. And whenever I forgot this fact, the heart of God burdened me; I would feel Satan pressing me, pushing me to decide. To not obey was torture, and I’ll be forever thankful for that change God brought about in me.[3]

God’s new view of me

It’s as if God says upon the divine transaction, ‘Okay, you’re serious now about living how I’ve always desired for you and all my Creation to live. Find no excuse now in doing it.’

And for it, there are blessings given in advance. There are benefits:

There is freedom. Some things that seemed impossible beforehand are now miraculously lifted from us. We can achieve them easily. We suddenly have the desire to relate with people where before we might have despised interaction with life. We suddenly have a thirst to serve God and get busy for him. The list goes on.

When we experience some of the first fruits of divine salvation we fall in love... truly, madly, deeply. And perhaps for the very first time, we know what it means to love ourselves rightly in relation to God’s love for us, and therefore we can actually love others in a selfless sort of way. We learn to love how God loves. We see love from his perspective.

God shows us in this situation that he is first. “We love Him, because He first loved us” –1 John 4:19 (Amplified). And when he is truly first in our lives, all things can then be ordered in correct priority by us. It doesn’t mean this is ‘a given’ for the remainder of our lives, for we must still choose it so; but we do have the revelation, the gentle pressing of the Spirit i.e. awareness, and the power of the Spirit i.e. the conviction to act, to achieve such.

We can never quite understand the enormity of love in God’s grace. The fact that he sent his Son to the cross; the fact that we transgress him over and over; the fact of his forgiveness; the fact of our little though not insignificant part in his glorious Creation... all amongst many, many facts of grace... all these go toward us being blown away that God truly loves us and seeks us to be in fellowship with him.

It is the purpose of us being here.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.
[1] Sanctification. (2009). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved June 21, 2009, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sanctification
[2] It has been known that people who said they were saved and actually didn’t have the experience the way they should have, have subsequently known the true salvation experience through ‘augmentation’ created in some part by the loving and skilled discipleship from more mature servants of God, who simply cared enough to ensure Christ really was known to/by them.
[3] It must be stated that the ploys of the Enemy are subtle, powerful and insidious. No one who is truly saved doesn’t know Satan, and his altogether deviously-wise methods. I am sure that there are now, and forever will be (whilst I live in this tent) temptations, both obvious and subtle, to turn from God. Not all of these are easy to detect and we’re destined to disappoint ourselves and God; this is all the more reason why God’s grace is so perfect; whilst we are still sinners, he saves us!

Weak-willed at Present?

Having only had six hours sleep and yet unable to remain asleep, but tired, is a problem. It’s linked, I know, to the inordinate amount of rich food I consumed yesterday and to other lifestyle factors, like for instance, time pressures, many cares and the propensity to sit on the computer to write, do Facebook, email, etc--for all factors of lifestyle are linked.

Health is a vicious cycle. Where we have imbalance in one area it invariably creates imbalance in other areas. We eat poorly, exercise less, think on things too much, and our sleep suffers--we get tired and irritable as a result and that has an impact on what food we eat (how much, the type, and how often) and our willingness to deal with the actual problems in our lives.

I’ve noticed a pattern with my life that might resonate with you. I can be typically strong-willed but it’s a cyclic thing. It seems that around my birthday (in August) each year I get reflective and a little sick of my typical weak-willed existence and really give a big effort at reforming those aspects of my lifestyle that haven’t been working.

This new impetus gains traction for a while, particularly during the spring months, but eventually the focus wanes slowly. Eventually, I’m able to continue with a strong-will toward my health for a period of about twelve days before I lapse. Then eventually that is broken down further and I struggle to string three strong days together.

It seems that the more we give in to ourselves, the more we give in to ourselves.

What am I learning from this? The following five steps help me.


To turn this around, sustainably, a big push is required. This will require some serious planning and reflecting to get the right mental platform, and the right strategies set up that will support the future effort.

Life Purpose & Vision

An intrinsic part of this whole process enshrines our purpose. What is the vision we see of ourselves? What behaviour would we need to engage in to run congruently with that vision? I see myself as lithe, healthy, and responsible adult. What are the behaviours that will support this vision?


But almost more important than both the above is the starting off with a resolve to say “no” to certain things, and “yes” to others. Resolve is really quite simple. It’s also about knowing how to engage the ‘delay of gratification.’ It is self-discipline to a tee.

Infractions on our resolve (especially small ones) will only serve to severely weaken it toward eventual breakdown. Cognisance of this should motivate us to protect it.

Present Awareness

And to exercise resolve effectively we need to start living ‘manually’ again (or perhaps for the first time). This in itself requires discipline. This means stopping the thoughtless, autopilot existence that we get lulled into. We choose instead to make some simple rules, and then use our awareness (unconditional presence) to remain vigilant to the temptation to give in to our weak-wills.

God’s Help

Finally, we can ask God’s help. The non-follower might scoff. My experience, however, is when we ask God to help us, especially if we’re saying sorry[1] for abusing ourselves, he does make it easier somehow. Somehow my resolve is stronger. Somehow I’m more cognisant of my goals. Somehow I’ve a better chance of reaching them. Somehow I have more peace as I venture.

Planning, knowledge of our personal purpose and vision, resolve, present awareness, and God’s help… these all go toward assisting us become more strong-willed for our health.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

[1] The “Twelve Steps” if one were to google them, are an effective way of looking at repentance for lifestyle issues. Wikipedia is a good place to start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve-step_program

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Where We Go Wrong in Life

There’s a pattern to life that works everywhere and with all people. It’s where the objective meets the subjective, and where people often go from the right path to the wrong.

The fact is we all have a vast array of skills for living in this world. Some of these skills help us in our work, some help with our families, and some just simply help us live life. Some skills are tangible, like being able to dress ourselves, drive a car, install a soak well, or prepare a cost-analysis spreadsheet, and some are intangible--like holding our relationships together.

Our skills are on display everywhere we go. They are something to be admired for their own self-sufficient glory (and ours) as we use them.

But then something often gets in the way. We integrate, with the deployment of our skills, our moralistic selves based out of our values and beliefs. These underpin, and go toward, the forming of attitudes which we carry with us into the performance of our skills. And so, even though these can either enhance or detract the performance (or value) of our skills, our values-driven perceptions more often detract. We assert our highly-questionable opinions which are all too often not grounded in broad reality. All too often, due to our threatened hearts, we go down the path of attitudes that detract from the performance of our skills, taking the shine from them, and this is a great pity.[1] We’re our own worst enemies.

On the positive side of the ledger, there’s another very positive thing we can do to enhance, objectively, the performance of our skills. I recall a senior mentor telling me of a CEO they worked closely with who had a name for her preparation. It set her apart and almost always placed her skills at advantage so they could be both seen and appreciated, toward the goal of achieving group objectives.

But, without detracting from the importance of planning, let me talk about the heart, as knowledge here helps us understand why we must routinely restrain and check our attitudes.

Proverbs says we must “keep vigilant watch over [our] heart… [for] that’s where life starts.” (Proverbs 4:23 Msg) We are so often used to restraining others, and particularly our children, but we don’t restrain ourselves--our value judgments--anywhere near enough.

Yet, every time we let fly we hold ourselves back, and to the detriment of our characters (within) and our reputations (without). And we cruel ourselves in the moment, if we’re self-aware. We promise to never do it again… until it happens the next time (often the same day!).

Don’t let value judgments get in the way of your fantastic skills which should be admired for what they are. Use self-control to gird your judgments. You will gleam as people notice the virtue in the pure skill you possess.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

[1] We should also bear in mind the impact of attribution: the average person attributes other peoples’ motives negatively for the most part (80 percent of the time, research tells us). As it’s our human nature to not trust, we see here how our values can run against our pure appreciation of others’ skilled actions, particularly and most tragically when they’re carried out with unbending positive intent.

The Case for Survival

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory” –W. Edward Deming. This is quite a damning statement that flies in the face of the blissfully ignorant and the stubbornly arrogant. This immediately has two dimensions for me: the physical and the spiritual. Let me explain.


Everyone must die sometime, right? Whilst this is correct, why would we hasten the timing of the event? And does it need to be gory? Yet, many of us are shooting straight for these outcomes via the way we choose to live. The way we live regarding our health or our safety very much determines how and when we’ll die. We have near-misses. (Remember the silly things we did in our youth?--I rest my case.) We don’t know when our luck’s going to run out, do we?

The truth is we take advantage of God’s grace every day when we ignore health symptoms and signs or take safety risks at home, on the roads and at work.


Everyone must die sometime, right? Physically, yes. But spiritually, we’ll live on. But, survival is still not mandatory. We need to be saved from ourselves and from the world, into the loving, reconciling, transforming arms of God. Survival beyond this fleeting life is not ‘a given.’

Bringing ‘Survival’ Back into View

So, what gives with ‘survival’ when death is inevitable? Well, in one sense survival is a temporary state; it’s a self-testimony regarding the respect we have for both ourselves, but ultimately our Creator; that we can be responsible (at least) to care for our bodies. But, in an altogether different sense, survival has permanence about it--in the spiritual realm.

Our spirit’s live on. But, whether they actually ‘survive’ or not is in question. I would not call reaching hell, ‘survival.’ That must be an eternal spiritually-living death. That would be the antithesis of survival. Who in their right mind would want to spend eternity in hell?

For my mind, we need to ensure we reconcile ourselves to the Creator on his terms and not our own. We need to relate rightly with God, and start to live the way he seeks for us to live; when we do this we’ll suddenly find tremendous alignment in surviving both physically and spiritually.

Only then will living healthily in both physical and spiritual contexts truly mean what it needs to mean.

Can there be a more urgent purpose for our lives?

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, June 19, 2009

500 Minutes from Freshness!

Do you know an infamously grumpy person? Anyone come to mind? Believe it or not, after possibly many years of tiredness, grumpiness and intolerance, as well as a vast array of other hellish symptoms, all can be made right again after a series of 500 minute investments… of sleep!

Road Transport Safety and Fatigue expert, Dr. Nick Mabbott, gave a talk on Fatigue and Worker Behaviour at the gathering of the Western Australian Safety Culture Network on 19 June 2009, saying grumpy, intolerant people are almost always overtired.

Sleep – a Delicate Balance

Nick spoke on sleep, and the fact that without an average of 7.5 to 8 hours sleep per night we run the risk of a shortened life, including Diabetes Type 2, heart disease, sleep apnoea etc.

Sleep serves so many health and wellbeing purposes. In fact, the five stages of sleep are each important for different reasons--and we need five 90-minute (five stage) cycles of sleep to feel refreshed when we awaken.

Importantly, it’s stages 3 and 4 that provide for body repair and stage 5 (REM--Rapid Eye Movement) is important for memory retention and mental processing, amongst other things. If the body is routinely short of sleep (6 hours of sleep or less per night on average) it will prefer REM sleep. We hence miss out on our ‘beauty sleep.’ We’ll then age quicker. It’s quite simple according to Nick; routinely skimp on sleep and you’ll only look older earlier and die younger as a result.

The Magic ‘500’

With five periods of 90-minutes banked together required--totalling to 450-minutes all up--we might also include some time in actually getting to sleep as there are many who find it difficult to fall asleep. Time at the other end might also be needed. The magic figure ‘500’ is a good standard to aim towards.

Can’t get to sleep?

If we’re likely to stew about things and can’t get to sleep for hours why wouldn’t we get up and write it out at the kitchen table? Instead of running all the thoughts repetitively through our minds we should do something with them. This way we might actually (finally) get some sleep. After doing this we should then have a drink of warm milk, and take a warm shower--simulating again the important pre-conditions required to sleep.

Alcohol and Caffeine

Even in small amounts, alcohol and caffeine play havoc with our sleep patterns--alcohol interferes with our deep sleep and caffeine (within 5-hours of sleep) makes it difficult to fall asleep. It is recommended that we have no more than three caffeinated drinks a day.

Fatigue and Depression

There is a strong scientific correlation now between fatigue and depression; where one occurs, the other is certainly not far away it seems. There’s one good reason to get our sleep. We’re not only healthier in body, but in mind as well.

Sleep Deprivation Kills People

Don’t underestimate the amount of people who die (particularly on the roads) due to a lack of sleep. Little do most people actually know that once we advance from the weariness of stage 1 sleep into stage 2--wherever we are and whatever we’re doing--there’s nothing to prevent us from actually falling asleep (even for a second or two)… let us not be in dangerous situations at the same time!

Couldn’t you go ‘500’ just now?

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

Failure: the Very Platform for Success (if you wish it so)

We’ve all had them, not just me... days which start slowly and haphazardly and never really recover. On one of these recent days I reflected on what had gone wrong and I was even more surprised as to how much abject failure lay strewn over my memorised landscape.

This particular day began with an atypical lethargy getting out of bed. My eventual arrival early at work went okay but I had limited access to some files I needed. This only cooperated with my already slightly negative disposition.

The day coincided with a major annual audit that I play a key part in. The auditor was antsy about certain things--as auditors are supposed to be--and I wasn’t as naturally willing to assist as I normally would be. So, I failed to be present and graceful enough.

Add to this, my manager came to see me about an irregularity in some figures for an Executive report--you guessed it, my mistake. You know when you get that embarrassingly blinding revelation all of a sudden that you didn’t instruct the person to do the work with a key piece of information... and this piece of information was significant.

In this one, I’d not only let my manager down, and the person delegated to do this work for me, but also my General Manager could have lost face. On a day like this, I took the failure a little more personally. And on a day like this, it is even harder to dignifiedly apologise--but I still did so; to apologise in as dignified a manner as I could.

Later that day, in the evening, we were out at a friend’s house with a bunch of others, and the plague of failure still dwelt with me. If there was a court jester required, you guessed it, it was my turn. And when it came time for me to contribute positively to the discussion, something inside me said, ‘Hold up, this is a risk.’ My confidence had even somewhat deserted me.

My mindset throughout was negative. I expected to fail and so I was almost certain to meet expectation, and every time I did, my subconscious mind would agree, ‘Yep, you’re a failure, Steve; see how this has turned out.’ I felt like a real klutz.

I’m fortunate that hardly anybody, I’m sure, noticed what sort of day I was having.

But, do you know the reality of this? Everybody has these days, and they’re mainly due to a loss of confidence, even for some unknown reason. We doubt ourselves and our negative self-talk runs riot. (For more on ‘unlucky days’ check out my article Relax, Cope Better - Recognise Unlucky Days.)

One thing I have learned to do, however, is to follow-up the ‘failure day’ with a ‘success day’--in this way, I reflect over what I could have done better and I reconcile those facts; hard as that might be. I then have grown accustomed to get over my grief that day so I can start afresh as I wake for the next. I rarely have two poor days in a row now because I have committed myself to learning from my mistakes and to reconciling them in that ‘dirty day’ itself. I do not carry it over into the next day.

Our mental approaches and the life situations we find ourselves in, change markedly from one day to the next. It can therefore only be our problem if we persist with a negative self-perception, or a negative perception of the world around us.

We can say with confidence once we’ve had our ‘allotted’ day of failure, that it is ‘my turn for success,’ to the benefit also of all those around us.

Realistically, on true reflection, not all things went poorly on this day of failure. It only seemed that way. This proves that our self-perceptions--in the moment--can go awry and are not always trustworthy.

And another important thing; if and when we detect things going wrong, if we have the awareness, we should take some sort of cover for the day by doing only what is absolutely necessary, by thinking things through more, and also by seeking counsel from trusted others. We can not only negotiate ourselves through a day like this, we can even turn it around in our favour.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.