Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Risks Involved and Encountered in “Change”

Seventy-three dead butterflies. This is the number of deceased ‘morphed’ caterpillars I saw that lay dead on the side of the road as I rode my hybrid bicycle during a recent summer-time aerobic workout. I can’t say conclusively if that was the exact number, but it occurred to me there were a lot flying around, but a lot dead too.

They seemed to be so haplessly and errantly flying into the path of oncoming vehicles. It was carnage! Not long back these creatures were entirely safe (at least regarding the particular environmental risk) in an entirely different state; that of the caterpillar.

Flying might be a graceful and liberating prospect for the caterpillar, but the joy can be short lived as evidenced by the hit rate.

I got to thinking about the process of change in life and the risks of changing and how that often creates an increased morbidity rate.

As we embrace a metamorphosis whether a career change, a choice to change tack in life, a personal reformation in dealing with a troublesome habit, or to turn our social circle upside down, there are risks that have to be considered. Change involves inherent risk. We sink or swim.

The last thing we want to do in selecting change is die some cruel outcome due to a lack of good planning. Change involves both the excitement of the unexpected and the new, and it certainly requires courage, commitment and a plan.

Change by all means, and do it with the best intent; do it also in wisdom having carefully calculated the costs and the benefits.

We should not crash ‘n’ burn in seeking to address a key issue in our lives.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Time is a Funny Thing - Making the Most of it (Goodbye 2008)

How many of us have said or heard another say, ‘Hasn’t 2008 flown by?’ We hardly ever notice a week go past and that there’s ever any significance in it, yet we have a week go past like the 23rd to the 30th of December and suddenly it’s noticeable, different and significant--Christmas has come and gone and the New Year is suddenly right on top of us. We mourn that the ‘carnival is [nearly] over’ according to the famous Seekers tune.

With some weeks and timeframes there’s a natural significance, like for instance, a birthday. The lead up is exciting. It comes and then goes, and we think, ‘Oh, well, it’s gone for another 365 days.’

Why isn’t our whole life built up with such expectancy? Perhaps it’s because we need balance and we can’t be excited and enthusiastic always; or can we?

In some ways I think we can. In the book of Ephesians, Paul talks about ‘redeeming the time,’ or making the most of every opportunity… not to cram more stuff into life, but to consider each moment as special; as an opportunity to do what is right, and to live wisely. It’s about living life awake and not ‘sleeping through’ the days, months, and years--as in being spiritually unaware of the passing time.

A New Year dawns, and with it fresh opportunities to view time differently, and as more sacrosanct.

How will I make the most of every day, viewing each one as special and a gift from God? (By my choice only.)

How will the most mundane and routine of daily activities take on a fresh significance? (By my choice only.)

How will others’ time become also precious to me? (By my choice only.)

Who will I say, ‘I love you’ to, and how will I appreciate each moment my relationships provide? (By my choice only.)

When all is said and done time is a commodity, but relationships come first.

The Effects of Physiology on Energy Levels - Where's the Threshold?

We have times in life when our energy levels simply evaporate into thin air. And when this happens and we’ve still got more to do, it is ironically and especially taxing.

I find personally that this happens mostly when I have relationship conflict and many cares to boot--an awkward combination of people to please and tasks that must be done. When all of this happens at once, my energy levels can become severely compromised, and the effects are broad from a case of ‘mental fog’ to complaint, to what I’d call ‘mood-meltdown,’ a.k.a. a depressive episode. Most times, however, we’re resilient enough to cope.

I don’t know about you but I don’t like it when my mind stops working momentarily; but I see God in it, simply reminding me of my limits--and his strength then has a way in.

And how can we explain this phenomenon of disappearing energy? Is there any science that might shed light on the causes or effects on our energy levels when the demands outweigh supplies (our own coping resources)?

There is a psychology-based paradigm that I think explains, at least in part, the factors involved which adversely affect the brain’s ability to cope with, or avoid, an incident or undesirable event.

o Speed—reaction time
o Drugs and alcohol
o Fatigue
o Frustration
o Cognitive processing
o Things on your mind (TOYM)

Any of these factors or a combination of them consume the available ‘units of consciousness’ that are part of our normal cognitive (logical thinking) capability. It is said that the average human being has seven (7) of these units.

Now, wonder (or wander if you prefer) with me into a scenario. Take it you have a highly responsible job with quite a number of cares and you also have many and varied family responsibilities. This is ‘situation normal’ for most people.

These things alone possibly take maybe five (5) of those available units of consciousness at any one time; add to this mix the complexity that comes with most if not all relationships from time to time, or a temporary rise in workload, and it is easy to see how our energy levels can wane significantly in a short time. Most people in this age will feel stressed as a result and probably weekly, or at least monthly.

An old friend said to me once, there’s the ‘Lego-block theory’ regarding relationships. We can only ever invest so much time. We can only handle so many Lego blocks on top of our own Lego block stack. Once the stack gets too high, the stack will fall over.

And I believe this is what happens in our lives with busyness and many responsibilities and cares. We overload and try to do too much.

We must learn to limit the load of Lego blocks on our own stack and make available room (units of consciousness) for those most important to us, as well as our jobs, interests and passions.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The “Static Christian”... nay, Let Us Go on Unto Perfection

The 20th Century ‘minor prophet’ A.W. Tozer preached a series called the “Deeper Life” in 1956. This article is based on the message, “How can we enter in: Static Christian.” Its message endures. He quotes the old book which says:

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

“Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” –Hebrews 6:1-2 (KJV)

“One of the great problems, even of the early church, was that of the ‘static Christian.’ I think it is a problem even greater than that of getting people converted.” –A.W. Tozer.

Tozer paraphrases Paul who was saying to them, ‘Why are you retarded in your progress of the Way... what hinders you?’

They lacked a moral dynamic that every Christian, Tozer felt, ought to know.

He that can hear will hear God.

Let us go on beyond the basic things.


“There can be no deeper life until there’s been light. There can be no progress in ‘the way’ until we’re in the way. There can be no growth until there’s been birth. And all the efforts toward a deeper life will only bring disappointment unless we have first settled the matter of repentance from dead works and the forgiveness of sins and the impartation of divine light [and conversion].”

Two things are required to enter the Deeper Life (one negative--away, one positive--toward)

- (Negative) Turn away completely from (or a ‘forsaking of’) the world.

- (Positive) Turn holy toward the Lord.

When we spiritually forsake the world and turn toward God we cannot help act in accord with his will and way. The positive is what is required for the deeper life. Giving up the vices (smoking, drinking, gambling etc) is negative. Leaving the world does not matter--and won’t bring us the intrinsic joy of the Lord--if we haven’t embraced the positive side of seeking God with our whole heart.

Tozer booms, “I have never seen a happy Christian yet that was every world conscious… he’s busy with his negatives! [Yet] I’ve never seen a happy man yet that wasn’t taken up with Jesus Christ the Lord.”

It is ‘power, radiance, joy, and an inward glory’ that are manifest signs of a turning holy toward God. God sees to it as his Spirit sweeps through our beings, taking up residence within us. Our positive turning toward him, and not simply turning away from darkness, is what we have to do. The negative alone won’t do it; it has to be accompanied by the positive and these both can occur at the same time.

“The commonest thing,” said Tozer, “can be done for the glory of God,” whether it be doing the dishes, peeling potatoes, or playing a violin. When the sun shines, nothing can stop it. When the Son shines in our hearts… we cannot help feeling alive in every way.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Is Life Fate or Destiny?

“Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.”Benjamin Button (played by Brad Pitt) in the movie, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

I found the abovementioned movie quite fascinating and particularly the quote above and the context with which it was placed.

At various times throughout the film I was left to ask, ‘Is life about fate or destiny?’

I believe the above quote is so significantly truthful it requires further analysis and meditation. Our lives really are defined by the opportunities that float our way and what we do with them.

It reminds me of the fork in the road quote from Yogi Berra. He says to simply ‘take it,’ i.e. make a decision and just do something; preferably the right thing. So, in this context, we could decide to take the opportunity or decline it.

At times it’s wise to ‘miss’ the opportunities presented. There is no shortage of things we can do that would be downright wrong; vice it seems is so prevalent in our societies if we scratch at the surface.

We can also serendipitously find ourselves in a better situation than we hoped. In other words, we can suddenly realise our fortune in making the right choice afterwards. Is that luck or good management?

Our life course is defined primarily by our choices, based on the opportunities we either take or leave alone. Fate or destiny? It really depends on your belief system. Perhaps our destinies change or can be re-written. Perhaps the ‘book of life’ is written as we go. That opens a theological hornet’s nest!

Nonetheless, there’s no doubting the relevance of the statement: Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss. These opportunities, taken or not, define our destiny.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Email – the GREAT Communication Villain

Communication is a tricky business at the best of times. Email is the communication “Tool of Folly,” especially regarding conflict.

If you:

~~ Would be happy for any number of understandings (or more appropriately, misunderstandings) to occur with your communications...

~~ Are happy to relinquish control over the success, failure or otherwise, of your relationships...

~~ Are too lazy to get out of your chair and actually go and talk to people about problems and issues you or they mutually face...

~~ Would be happy for people to see you as having a ‘timid at home [i.e. with them] but bold when away’ rapport with them... or,

~~ Are happy for people to see you as having an ‘anonymous’ personality...

... Use email.

It’s a common thing that email is maligned; almost everyone knows it’s one of the most unreliable communication mediums.

When we have issues of conflict, email should not be the tool of choice. Even when we wish to commend people we often miss the mark when choosing email to do it. And that’s a heinous outcome, for praise to miss its mark.

We’re so easily fooled into using eloquence when drafting emails and pressing ‘send’ often occurs way too soon. And ‘recalling’ that email won’t always fix the problem; some people get it anyway, and the re-work involved is plain wasteful.

It might sound a bit far-fetched to lay all the blame on a tool, but how many can relate to the lament herein? How many have been bitten by this email curse?

And does email simply hide the fact that we ourselves are to blame for our own errant ways--based in laziness or the acquisitiveness or generation of power?

We’ve all probably been warned before, and I dare say, we may still read this and still fall for the same old email communications trap every now and then. It’s inevitable, though we should apply ourselves to the discipline of ‘doing’ communication more personally.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ignorance is Bliss… NOT

“I cannot divine how it happens that the man who knows the least is the most argumentative.” –Giovanni Della Casa (1503-1556), Papal Secretary of State, Galateo.

“A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” –Proverbs 18:2

How much of our time is devoted to appeasing argumentative people, who are by definition, biblical ‘fools’?

Yet, as people, we don’t know what we don’t know. And some people are deliberately blind to that fact--they don’t want to know or even refuse to acknowledge it.

When we act out of a lack of knowledge, say when we make assumptions, we often get our relationships and lives drastically wrong.

The Bible says a lot about this subject of irony: the person with least amount of knowledge and understanding strangely has the strongest views.

There’s a boomerang principle to be observed here. The strong view of the ignorant person blocks their potential to learn and grow[1]; in the final analysis, they only have their lips, an incorrect heart, and bits of knowledge, which are on the whole dangerous in most contexts. They know it all already so there is little they could learn.

Yet, in reality there ruin; it’s only a short time away--it’s inevitable. Yet, their hearts rage against God and the people opposing them when it happens; forever they do not learn. It’s always someone else’s fault.

Below are related some proverbs:

“It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” –Proverbs 20:3

Prudence arms the wiser, discreet person with caution and care, an antecedent for honour. People who are quick to argue are by intrinsic nature, foolish. Improperly manifested anger turns us into fools in a moment.

“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” –Proverbs 12:15

It is easier in the long run to take the humble attitude of learner. The way of the fool of course seems right to him for the reasons highlighted above i.e. the boomerang principle. They have no desire to be wrong and couldn’t stand the thought.

“Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips.” –Proverbs 14:7

It’s incumbent on us to choose our friends carefully. At times we’re thrust into relationships, for instance, in the workplace, where we need to do our best to curb our interaction with certain persons. Of course, we can choose our friends but we can’t choose our family.

“The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” –Proverbs 15:2

The fool can’t help him or herself. They plunge into danger without a care in the world. What’s more, the fool can’t help spruik, as the following proverbs continue to attest:

“The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.” –Proverbs 15:14

“Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but provocation by a fool is heavier than both.” –Proverbs 27:3

“If a wise man goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace.” –Proverbs 29:9

“As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.” –Ecclesiastes 5:3

Perhaps the last one below is how we should leave the discussion:

“Even as he walks along the road, the fool lacks sense and shows everyone how stupid he is.” –Ecclesiastes 10:3

Certainly a well-known, contemporary (but lovable) fool is Homer Simpson. On a recent episode this cartoon character was heard to say, “How come things that happen to stupid people keep happening to me?”

We might laugh at this but what is self-evident to some in not for others. In this world we will have to deal with the foolish.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

All Scripture referenced from the New International Version.

[1] Proverbs 14:8 (NIV) says, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.”

Imitatio Christi: Our Most Relevant Objective

Thomas à Kempis said once, “We must imitate Christ’s life and his ways if we are to be truly enlightened and set free from the darkness of our own hearts. Let it be the most important thing we do, then, to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ.”

And that is what Christianity is, at its heart--imitating Christ.

I am currently studying the interrelationship of the six (6) broad categories of the Christian faith, and the sum of these is--imitating Christ. It simply facilitates the following of Jesus.

Whether it is the prayer-filled life, the virtuous life of holiness, the Spirit-empowered (charismatic) life, the social justice life of compassion for those less fortunate, the evangelical, Word-centred life, or the incarnational, sacramental life, Christians have a role in imitating Christ through these traditions.[1]

So broad is the Christian faith though, we ‘specialise’ and God has placed a gift or two in our souls to discover our particular flavour and specialty of faith. Let us not become envious of others who have stronger leanings in a direction not entirely ours.

As Paul said to the Galatians, “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” –Galatians 6:4 (NLT).

We are really apt at envying others with strengths different to ours; let us instead reject this for the ‘good life’ of humbly, peaceably and wisely seeking God:

“A good life makes a man wise according to God and gives him experience in many things, for the more humble he is and the more subject to God, the wiser and the more at peace he will be in all things.” –Thomas à Kempis.

The above quotes by the 15th Century mystic, monk and priest, who authored The Imitation of Christ, refer to the base we must have to realise the full weight of life.

There is the irony stated as simply as this in Jesus’ own words: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” –Mark 8:34b-36 (NIV).

When we are subject to God we are wiser and more peaceful ‘in all things.’

Jesus beckons us to follow him, by imitating him, and it’s the only way to truly know life. To lose our life for Christ is to paradoxically save it. It’s so weird yet so true. There’s no other way.

And what better way is there to imitate the Christ than to immerse ourselves in the gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We must swim into the text, paddle into the deep reaches of Jesus--his birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension and glorification, getting lost in the truth of the gospel--and hope beyond hope that we forever drown to our self and become a marathon swimmer for Christ who loves us.

Jesus beckons, “Follow me.”[2] He is saying ‘Imitate me,’ then you will truly live! Come and experience the fullness of me, is what Jesus is saying. There is more there than anyone can possibly digest, even in a lifetime.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] See Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith (San Francisco & London: HarperCollins, 1998).
[2] See Matthew 4:19, 8:22, 10:38, 16:24, 19:21; Mark 1:17, 1:20, 2:14, 10:21; Luke 5:27, 9:23, 9:59, 14:27, 18:22; John 1:43, 8:12, 10:27, 12:26, 21:19, 21:22. Revelation 14:4 is further evidence that following Christ is the only way to go.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Importance of Rhythms in Life

I remarked to my local pastor just the other day about how ‘on song’ his preaching was; the blend of a solid message with lots of meaning, and the important presence of his personal delivery.

It reminded me that there are all important rhythms in life that not only inspire confidence within us as we relate with our world, but these rhythms provide hope for the future as we look ahead. Rhythms give us joy as we reflect on our past achievements too.

As an illustration, take the cricket. As I watch I note one player who’s got a good rhythm and one that doesn’t. South Africa’s captain, Graeme Smith, is both in form and full of confidence; he doesn’t look like getting out. Australia’s plan to him would probably be to just keep bowling tightly to him and hope he plays a loose shot.

But look at a player like Brett Lee, on the other hand, and he’s a player out of rhythm, low on confidence, and out of luck. He’s not getting a lot wrong; he’s just not getting enough right. Yet, he’s probably only a wicket or two, or an innings or two away from a change in fortunes. Class always sees a return to form.

Gaining and retaining or regaining rhythm is a fickle business. This reminds us that we need faith, because we can’t possibly explain 100 percent why or why not we have our rhythm.

There are hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and even annual rhythms. There are little things and big things. When we have a regular outing with friends on a Wednesday morning planned or a weekend ride to look forward to, we have a buoyancy about us, and this echoes into the other areas of our life.

The most important rhythms however are the minute-by-minute and second-by-second rhythms as they highlight how our thinking is going. They enunciate the rhythm of the mind, our most powerful ally. Controlling our thinking is a grossly understated achievement.

Life is basically about learning--it’s the most important objective.

Learning about our personal rhythms can both be fun and frustrating; but, we can’t avoid it so we might as well enjoy it the best we can.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Friday, December 26, 2008

New Year Planning: the Relevance of Relationships

In his Christmas message[1] Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen cited some important issues that bear profound consideration heading into the New Year:

“Dr Jensen spoke of Jesus being born into a human family, showing us that ‘human nurturing depends on trusting each other and taking responsibility for each other.’

“The Archbishop said ‘Without profound commitment to each other, we live less than a human life.’”

The family is a key to it all. Dr Jensen said, “The challenge is to our whole community to turn back to God and then act like a family.”

Family values are a key to societal health and ultimately to life on earth. It is by these values, more than anything else, that we express our humanness. The compassion, consideration and concern we show the family members we love is the very same approach needed beyond our family, into the world.

Perhaps the most poignant issue heading into the New Year surrounds our relationships, and not just those with which we’re closely connected to, but others in our community too.

We must harmonise within our society, on the roads, in the shops, in our schools and workplaces. And it starts with me, and you.

Our relationships, and specifically the quality of them, point to a premium of life that we either enjoy or loath; a continuum that breathes at one end but is dead at the other.

Let’s ‘breathe’ in the New Year. People are first. Relationships come first.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] The whole transcript of the message is available at:

New Year’s Resolutions: A Suggestion or Three

The occasion of a New Year is a natural point to review what’s gone and what’s coming. Some people don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions but even if they only come of age a tenth of the time, surely they’re worth it regarding our commitment to ongoing self-improvement.

These are some suggestions to make as New Year’s Resolutions:

Courage – Be more courageous. Stand firm at times, and also have the courage to remain silent in the midst of pressure and turmoil, bearing up patiently.

Agility – Express agility. Commit to being more flexible and responsive, and thereby create enlarged, more varied levels of personal capability.

Presence – Work on presence. Being more diligent and prudent creates a sense of charisma and winsomeness that facilitates (makes easy) life for both self and others. Commit to being ‘a joy to be around.’

Fun – Have more fun. Simply cavort with our humour in simple, fun-loving ways. Life is for enjoyment. Commit to putting the “joy” back in on a daily basis.

Stamina – Resilience and endurance. Having the stamina to not only last the distance, but thrive.

Rest – Finding rest is best. Rest is both a biblical and a wisdom construct. Commit to rest so performance in whatever roles we play can be at our true peak.

Balance – Achieving it, finally. And we can achieve it. This takes us back in a big loop to courage. Commit to courageously making the decisions required to obtain and sustain balance.

Relationships – The key and elixir to life. Commit to less email, more phone and face to face communication. More listening and less speaking. Commit to truth and receive criticism graciously.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Jesus is the Reason for the Season!

"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." -Luke 2:7 (NRSV)
The Incarnation of God was born in lesser circumstances than you and I (assuming the typical Western birth in hospital or home).
When we read Luke chapters 1 and 2 we are reminded of much Old Testament (the Bible before Jesus came and while he was here) prophesy that came to fruition in His first coming or Advent.
Jesus truly is the reason for the season, though no one really knows what date he was actually born. It's a bit like the Queen's Birthday holiday (which is not on her birthday); it's almost irrelevant. But 25 December has the geurnsey. It's when we celebrate the moment of the Saviour of the World's birth.
I was reminded this morning that we're all spiritual beings; we all get positively emotional, motivated, inspired. Nothing inspires better than God's great grace and mercy in sending His only Son to redeem and save us.
We're saved from ourselves, a worldly (and insufficient) destiny, and ultimately from hell. Life this side of salvation is but a taste of heaven as we look forward to the second Advent.
How great is God the Father's love that He did this, and designed the plan to do this before He enacted Creation?
Praise God! Hosanna (save, we pray) in the Highest!

Honouring a Truly Lovely Servant: Now that’s the Spirit of Christmas!

The mark of any good workplace, in my opinion, is how it treats its people. At my workplace on Christmas Eve, we had a truly lovely servant of ours retire after twenty-three (23) years of loyal service, and the event of celebrating this achievement is noteworthy.

Such was Trish Hill’s scope and influence within the workplace, many more than normal packed the seventh floor than normally would have, for just about anyone else’s leaving. But leaving it at that would not do justice to the reason why so many came. Trish is a very special person to each one that came.

Her demeanour, value of respect, courtesy, and allowance for fun and the finer things in life simply won hearts. When we dealt with Trish, we dealt with a human being who valued things differently than the typical transactional ways we’d expect. Her currency is love, and she tendered it consistently and graciously.

She brought a sense of personal and eternal value and selflessness to our workplace that is not often seen.

Of all the people at my workplace that are found to be inspiring for quite different and unexpected reasons it is people like Trish that stand out. People like her remind us, by their presence, of the enormous value of the human being; of kindness, love and generosity, and time taken to appreciate the very human aspects of life. And it was just so apt to celebrate her retirement with her on the cusp of Christmas.

Trish will be sorely missed, but then again she’s left an indelible mark on others as a model for how to treat people. And we can only hope that her example has rubbed off on others as she departs and a new ‘Trish-less’ era begins.

We will miss you, Trish!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Why We Take Our Safety For Granted

“Not a gift of a cow, nor gift of land, nor yet a gift of food, is so important as the gift of safety, which is declared to be the great gift among all gifts in this world.”
–Panchatantra, c. 5th century, vol. 1, trans. Franklin Edgerton.[1]

Driving back from dropping a family member at work recently, my wife was almost involved in a dire traffic accident at speed. There were two other cars driven through a red light, long after it had turned red.

We are not all as foolish as these drivers, and notwithstanding complacency and human lapses, we do all take risks with our safety, and by virtue of this, we take our wellbeing somewhat for granted. We could write a hundred theses on why we do this and still not actually answer the question conclusively.

Is there an acceptable yet more simplistic approach to the question?

As humans, we learn. We’re designed, or ‘configured’ if you like, to absorb information from our experience and to transmute that into behaviour for the future. This involves motives to stay safe (survival instinct) but also to be efficient, including the propensity to engineer comfort into the final outcomes of our existence. We are intrinsically (naturally) motivated to both safety and efficiency.

And this is where the clash comes; there are often competing, incompatible goals in life; ‘tensions’ between opposing forces and possible outcomes--and, it’s our choice at the end of the day what side of this tension we run to.

So, what wins out? What we think about most, often wins out.

If we think in a way that focuses toward maximum comfort, we’ll take short cuts on our safety, because our intent is to ensure the path of least resistance is taken, be that right or wrong. Yet, if we think about doing things right first time, regardless of the cost of our comfort, we’ll often do them right, take fewer shortcuts, and our safety is more assured.

We hardly ever think that our lives are potentially over so quickly. Think of a tragic accident; that incident ‘that’ll never happen to me.’ Tragedies happen in the blink of an eye--then there’s no going back! What’s done is done--and dusted.

We take our safety for granted because, quite simply, we take calculated risks to ensure our comfort. Some of these risks are perfectly acceptable as the consequence is minor; but some risks are fraught with danger and sooner or later we stand to ‘cop it.’

We can view health risks the same way, but the major difference is our health choices have more latent effects; safety risks involve more immediate consequences.

Self-preservation is often about comfort; sometimes the path of least resistance is a potentially-fatal trick and we can easily be fooled into a potentially life-ending choice.

At the root of it all, of course, is the virtue of patience. That’s an entirely new discussion. Another ‘entirely new’ discussion is how to protect ourselves from others who recklessly live life, like our friends who routinely run red lights.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] Daniel Kehoe & Stephen Godden, You Lead, They’ll Follow: How to inspire, lead and manage people. Really. Vol. 1 (Sydney Australia: McGraw-Hill, 2003), p. 26.

Encountering one of “Christ’s True Gentlemen”

It is rare that we get to meet and observe a true example of greatness, but I had that privilege yesterday. And it was ironically a case of me serendipitously swapping inconvenience for privilege, as I went to this function to support my wife by playing the husbandly role of ‘companion-at-party.’ Well, what a treat lay in store for me.

I would hazard to say that to name this guy might embarrass him; but I’ll do it anyway. His name is Stephen McKinnon.

Steve works part time for TEAR Australia, Engaging Christians in Australia in God’s Work of Justice and Compassion: Transformation, Empowerment, Advocacy, Relief, in Education, which is essentially about “[informing, challenging and empowering] Christians in Australia to make biblically-shaped responses to poverty and injustice.”[1]

During the party there was a video shown of the ‘first 40 years’ of Steve’s life. Time and again people spoke lovingly and glowingly of his love for the lost, for fun, his humility, and his innate ability to ‘live what he believes.’ It is very rare indeed that people back up what they say with action, and clearly Steve is a model in this department.

A broader reflection which moves from Steve for a moment:

Time has the uncanny ability to give us exposure or special glimpses of greatness. One or two hours, or a simple encounter, with a great or special person can bring such eternal impact into our lives.

Encountering Justin Langer and meeting John Longley earlier this year were two such examples of experiences that easily etched their way into not only my memory, but my imagination also. These experiences are potentially road-of-life shifting. They’re inspiring.

Meeting Steve and observing him mingle with friends yesterday was a real honour. He’s a very different guy who’s made an impact on a great many people, not the least of which the seven or eight foster children he’s had stay with himself and his wife Erica and their two boys. He's intrinsically authentic, pragmatic and practical, with an innate love for not only kids but people in general; he’s someone to learn from.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] Sourced from TEAR Australia website:

Staying Positive and Agile: A Success Secret

Recently I commented on a plan submitted to me for information and feedback. It addressed the criteria it sought to address very adequately and the intent behind it seemed very good. I correspondingly gave the required feedback: ‘Good plan and good work by those behind it.’

Then I got a call from someone in a subordinate position to me asking if I was ‘really happy with it.’ I said it addressed the criteria very adequately in my view, and I asked this person if they felt there was anything specific that wasn’t addressed. I couldn’t get a clear answer to convince me to the contrary so I retained my original view.

Then I came across the following quote from a James Adonis free e-book:

“Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power.” –Shirley MacLaine.

It seems to me that to succeed in this busy world of ours we need to pick our battles well; we must aim for retain our agility. Staying positive and building relationships and moving forward are ways to succeed.

Sure, there may’ve been opportunities for the plan I reviewed to be improved, but to extract another five (5) percent, would it have been worth the effort. We daren’t ‘make the perfect the enemy of the good.’ –Morton C. Blackwell.

Some people always see ‘the work to be done’ instead of the work already done and the progress made. When we dwell on the negative we can become enslaved to it.

Then there are the irresponsible souls who’ll deflect mud onto those who actually need to do the work i.e. they identify work that they themselves won’t do, but insist that others do it.

To have any sense of a chance of succeeding we must break free of negativity. We must learn to challenge it; respectfully, of course.

I was having a conversation with my manager-once-removed recently and he proffered the following:

[The future] “might be analogous to an obstacle course where all of the challenges will be individual obstacles.

“Some of the obstacles are known, some are potential and others we haven’t even contemplated. Even the known ones will have some uncertainty in terms of nature, magnitude, location and endurance.

“So if our plan is to run in a straight line as fast as possible and suddenly one of the obstacles is lower than we thought and another appears where we didn’t expect it--then life is going to be pretty painful.

“Agility for me was about making a decision (strategy and plan) based on a clear, current understanding of the endpoint and the challenges likely to be encountered along the way, but being prepared to flex, change direction, speed up/slow down, absorb a few hits etc as we move forward.

“In the absence of such an approach it is possible that we will still get to the endpoint but it will be a lot harder for all concerned. Agility picks up flexibility, responsiveness and capability.

“I was also thinking of an obstacle course in which all of the obstacles are constantly moving--if one was to choose a flexible form such as an octopus or jellyfish then the path through would seem easier than say for a crab. The crab may eventually also get through but possibly minus a claw, with a few broken ribs and exhausted (was it really worth doing?). It’s important that the journey or experience is ‘enjoyable’ and that in addition to achieving objectives we also achieve self preservation and preferably self enhancement.”

The future is a scary place for many people. One way we can make the journey to the future more palatable is to stay positive and agile, working with the flow of things rather than against them.

Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Art of Heart, Mind (and Body Language) Reading

I often write on the wisdom of Balthasar Gracian, and his Art of Worldly Wisdom, consisting of 300 wise aphorisms. This offering below (in the quotation marks) talks mainly about reading the intentions of mind and heart.

“Comprehend their dispositions with whom you deal... so as to know their intentions. Cause known, effect known, beforehand in the disposition and after in the motive. The melancholy man always foresees misfortunes, the backbiter scandals; having no conception of the good, evil offers itself to them.

“A man moved by passion always speaks of things differently from what they are; it is his passion speaks, not his reason. Thus each speaks as his feeling or his humour prompts him, and all far from the truth. Learn how to decipher faces and spell out the soul in the features. If a man laughs always, set him down as foolish; if never, as false. Beware of the gossip: he is either a babbler or a spy. Expect little good from the misshapen: they generally take revenge on Nature, and do little honour to her, as she has done little to them. Beauty and folly generally go hand in hand.”

Reading Body Language

This is one of the biggest cues to reading people. I was interested to note a colleague recently at a meeting (and since) spend large amounts of time with a worried look on his face and a hand over his mouth. This tells me he could’ve been thinking that the speakers (including myself) were hiding something.[1]

Likewise, if it was him speaking with his hand covering his mouth, it could've indicated he was hiding something. This is but one example of the advantage of being able to interpret body language. It’s no perfect science, but it gives us food for thought, and that’s all we need to commence our interest in others and what’s going on for them.

Learning to watch for facial expressions, gestures of the arms and stance, for instance, can give us a window into the reality for the other person, and we are then able to see the world from their view, and not become upset by things they might do and say... because we understand their disposition and motives. Their words and actions might have little to do with us.

The melancholy person and the backbiter are cited above as examples of people seeing the reality of their own internal perspective--they’re blinded by the other-than-rose-coloured glasses they see the world through. Once we know this, the light goes on for us, and we see these people consistently seeing a world that doesn’t exist, except in their own minds; but at least we can understand them, and what’s more, predict them.

The golden lesson for us in this above aphorism is the fact that passion can blind reason. It’s good to be passionate, but not to the extent that we become eccentric and unbalanced. Forever remaining reasonable (as far as possible) is a key to life.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] Allan and Barbara Pease, The Definitive Book of Body Language (Buderim: Pease International, 2006), p. 149.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nothing Beats Hard Work: In the Gym, In Life

We can learn a lot about life from the microcosm of the gymnasium. I saw a couple of guys recently working hard to reduce the load of extra pounds they’d accumulated over years of good living. They were both happy and talkative and seemed to be having a lot of fun.

At another corner of the gym was a slightly younger guy training on his own. He seemed less comfortable as he went from one machine and station to another. He actually seemed in a hurry. He was training quite hard.

Then it struck me. There was a distinct difference in these guys’ physiques. The two enjoying themselves, chatting between sets of exercise, were out of condition. One was rotund, the other puffing frantically at various stages. The other guy was quite trim and muscularly toned, with beads of sweat and vein-infested arms to match.

There was also the difference in time expended in the gym. The two less conditioned guys were in the gym much longer than the fitter gent. The other guy was in and out of the gym in less than an hour; the less conditioned exponents lingered for at least thirty minutes longer--there was no hurry for them.

I got to thinking. What level of diligence does it take to succeed in the gym? What workload and level of commitment does it take to build and maintain a good body?

Perhaps the old 19th Century preacher, Henry Ward Beecher said it best:

“It is not work that kills men; it is worry. Work is healthy; you can hardly put more upon a man that he can bear. Worry is rust upon the blade. It is not revolution that destroys the machinery, but the friction.”

And this lesson beckons us to the broader landscape of life. What can we miss when we are prepared to work? I venture to say, ‘Not much.’ Work seems to run consistently with life; those who work seem to be happiest. Work satisfies.

Whether it’s work or work in the gym, don’t dilly dally around. Do your work and then go on to the next thing. Gossip and small talk really have no place where there are things to do. This is not to say a good chat is worthless; we must separate socialising from work. Do the work, then socialise.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Voting: Whether You Enjoyed the Read or Not, Rate It

Ever since I commenced writing and submitting articles to EzineArticles in November 2007 I have been intrigued by the feedback I’ve received; and at times, in some ways, it has been a lack of feedback. But, one of the main reasons I continue to submit articles is the feedback I get.


One of the best forms of feedback is the “views” field. If an article title and summary (abstract or ‘teaser’) is interesting enough, or if the field of general interest in the topic at hand is attractive enough, then it can be a pleasant surprise to see an article viewed one hundred times or more in one 24-hour period. My most popular article (with over 10,000 views to date) averaged 250 per day for the first week. It was really cool to watch it progress.


By far the best gauge of the real value of an article is the rating/voting field (although the ‘EzinePublisher’ field is also very good); unfortunately, the voting field is not used much. Of all the articles I read from other authors in my chosen niche (and others niches I browse), few are rated, but I make a point of giving fellow writers encouraging feedback via a vote, if I can. It only takes a few seconds of thought and then I make the selection.

I vote on two simple criteria:

ONE: Is the author authoritative and is the article written authoritatively? This gets to the heart of the credibility of the author. Most authors I’ve found have impressive credentials. To be written authoritatively is another question. Is there real value in the advice; does it pack a truthful punch? Does it lead to the achievement of an objective? Does it deliver on promises made?

TWO: Structure; grammar and spelling; logical, interesting flow. This is about the technical issues of writing itself. How does it read? Writers lose points quick for elementary spelling and grammar faults or if there’s a lack of structure and flow. This is about attention to detail.

My rating scale

FIVE STAR: This sort of article tops both criteria above. It tugs at the heart strings and a ‘five’ comes instinctively.

FOUR STAR: This sort of article is of high quality, informative, not too long, and easy to read. I would rate at least 30 percent of the articles I read a ‘four star.’

THREE STAR: This is still a very good article. Perhaps the writer has written it well and it comes across as authoritative, but they’re not entirely credible; it may not be their natural or best niche.

TWO STAR: Generally, I only give two stars or a ‘fair rating’ to poorly finished work (which still reads quite well) and if the author has a strong, unbalanced view one way or the other.

ONE STAR: Only morally wrong work gets a ‘one star’ in my book. Otherwise, if it’s that poor I won’t bother to rate it.


Writers write for all sorts of reasons. Personally, I write because of an innate passion to express myself and help others at the same time; it’s a huge bonus to get a rating which is qualitative feedback on your work. When we read articles, it is my belief, we should be disciplined enough to consider a fair rating as feedback to the author.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Sad Fact of Life: Wisdom Comes Too Late

Ever make a mistake so many times that you thought, ‘Hang this, I’ll never get it!’? This is the experience of life, or at least part of life, for every single one of us, and it’s particularly relevant to our relationships; the closer the relationship often the harder it is to work it out.

“We grow too soon too old too late, too smart….” –Scandinavian/German Proverb.
A variant of this is the Dutch saying, “We grow too soon old and too late smart.” Yet another is, “Too soon old, too late wise.”

Mistakes are a way of learning. It’s said we can learn the easy way (by observation) or the hard way (by our mistakes); invariably we are destined to learn and re-learn the same tired things, until that is, we learn them for good.

Take food portion control, for instance. This is one I’ve constantly had to learn and re-learn. And I’m still learning it. Now I’ve reached the point that the pain of having an overly full and bloated stomach for several hours is worse than the reward of thirty minutes of gorging tasty food.

But, it was a process to get there. Now I find it a much better prospect to get that hungry feeling; it’s a pain I enjoy because I’m rewarded by delaying my gratification. So long as this behaviour continues until I form the habit i.e. for a period two to three months, I have a chance of learning the lesson once and for all.

It is a sad fact that with life comes the disappointment that knowledge comes altogether too late. It’s a sweet but sour irony. We may know theory well before it is finally practiced consistently. Such is life.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

The Goal of Leadership – Keep Everyone Happy

Planning for important family get-togethers, like Christmas, is often a case of ensuring the process is done in such a way that everyone is happy with the general and specific arrangements. A key to this is obviously effective communications, including keeping an ear out for intentions i.e. effective listening and responding.

Somebody said to me recently that it’s impossible to keep people happy all the time, or even keep most of the people happy most of the time.

But this is essentially the challenge of leadership: to keep everyone happy, as far as possible. This is where the leader, be it in the family, in business, or in sport, needs to be an effective negotiator, serving both the people and the broader interests of the family, business, or team being led.

In leadership, there are always non-negotiable’s that must be met. In business, there are key performance indicators that dictate our focus. In sport, we need to win as much as possible. In the family, we must ensure we lead responsibly particularly in two areas--the marriage, and with the children. Leadership is about realising potential.

Keeping everyone happy is the overall goal of leadership because there’s nothing like achieving the broader goals and seeing everyone delighted, to boot.

At times keeping everyone happy will mean setting aside our own personal agendas, desires and plans; again, the effective leader doesn’t mind how things are done so long as the overall objectives are being achieved, right? (Getting to this place mentally and emotionally is a journey itself, and perhaps it’s a journey we never truly complete.)

Leadership done this way means there is freedom for team members (incl. family members if we’re talking leadership in the family) and other stakeholders to contribute uniquely, and ownership and commitment to the process and outcomes is then almost a given.

Keeping everyone happy (as far as is possible--and it isn’t always possible) is the role of ‘servant leadership,’ which is a construct from Christian ministry leadership that works equally well in secular, sporting and family circles.

It’s about ‘leading lightly.’ Holding control lightly is a key to relationships, communication and leadership.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Nothing Left to Prove, Nothing Left to Earn

The classic dysfunctional relationship is often characterised by the need of people to seek and earn approval, and prove themselves over and again. Conversely, as far as any relationship we might have with God is concerned, we have nothing left to prove, and nothing left to earn. It’s all there waiting for us to simply accept God as our friend and shepherd. And the greatest reward for a relationship with God is “rest,” deep within our soul.

Imagine a life with no more torment, less anxiety, and more abiding peace; imagine smiling more and loving every day, not just the weekends.

We can have the same relationship with the living God as Moses did.

The LORD replied [to Moses], “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
–Exodus 33:14 (NIV).

Philip Graham Ryken says that God’s Presence is literally his Face. The concept is God will make his face shine upon us, and turn his face toward us, as in the Priestly Blessing of Numbers chapter 6. The ‘face of God’ is translated as the ‘closeness’ of the personal relationship that God offered Moses.[1]

The glory of God’s grace (his face) is first, and most of all, rest. The rest of peace converts into joy and vice versa. God promised to stay with Moses as he promises to stay with us. Such assurance facilitates an abiding joy (despite our difficulties) that simply must be experienced to be believed.

And God offers us the same thing as he gave to Moses. By virtue of that fact we have nothing left to prove and nothing left to earn.

Why do we continue to try to please God when we already have, through Christ’s redemptive work of the cross? We can do no more, and need not do more. Sure, our love for God compels to work hard, do good things and always attend to all our relationships, forgive etc, but we don’t do it from guilt, but from rest. We don’t have to do these things; we want to.

The rest of God is pure grace. His face is turned toward us, and it shines upon us, as he relentlessly seeks a personal, intimate relationship with us, through his eternal Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. When we know God, we love him and he directs us.

We’ve got nothing left to prove, nothing left to earn, and there’s nothing left to worry about. Now, that is ‘rest.’

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Acknowledgement to Ps. Steve Ingram for the title of this article, a refrain from his sermon delivered at Parkerville Baptist Church, Western Australia on 14 December 2008.

[1] Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus – Saved for God’s Glory, R. Kent Hughes (ed.) (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2005), p. 1030.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Secrets of Success in 2009: Presence, Agility, Stamina

There’s no question really that life now in this Century is in some ways much different than ever before. Take the recent global developments relating to the dual financial and food crises; the tumultuous road that many face could straightforwardly spell doom in the heart.

But, with all major crises there are opportunities for the bold.

2009 is a year that will welcome the much-vaunted President-elect Barack Obama, a leader who’ll have the hopes of the Western world on his shoulders and beneath his wings. Yet, for any man it would be easy, and forgivable, to be defeated in spirit before the race is even run. But Obama is no ordinary man, clearly.

As we venture into the unknown future of a New Year, what will be the difference for us? ‘What will be’ regarding our New Year’s resolutions?

And what opportunities will 2009 throw at us? And how would we respond?

There are three words that could very well describe Obama; words with meaning that could transform us too.

Presence – we stand here present on this earth able to think and act, able to do so much, and make an impact--for good. Our presence is crucial. There are people who not only depend on us, but there are also the future opportunities that will come that mean all we have to do is ‘be present,’ and be “us.”

Agility – at a mentoring session recently I was given this word as a guide for uncertain times. It’s about being agile, and staying/thinking on our feet, not making assumptions, and being ready to act and change at a moment’s notice provided that’s the right thing to do. It’s a deliberately simplistic and lean approach.

Stamina – no other quality would be more important than this, particularly in this age. When the temptation is powerful to give up, stamina helps us grit our teeth and say, ‘I can do more, I can go further, I can smile despite the present circumstance, I will not give up.’

Presence, agility and stamina will be critical characteristics for the President-elect and his staff in negotiating a minefield of political, economic and social turmoil.

These too can be the very characteristics that we take on from the first day of the New Year, as we struggle and succeed, in whatever milestones and challenges that lay before us to be conquered.

Courage is the underpinning attribute behind all three: presence, agility, stamina.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Givers and Takers – To Serve or Be Served?

“The leech has two daughters.
‘Give! Give!’ they cry.” -Proverbs 30:15 (TNIV).

The Haemophagic leech is a fascinating creature. For instance, it is designed so well it can attach itself to a host’s skin without being detected because it injects an anaesthetic into the site of the skin where its suckers attach. Additionally, it secretes an anti-clotting enzyme into the host so as to ensure a good flow of blood as it sucks.[1] Now, there’s some intelligent design right there!

The leech’s purpose is to such blood from the host via both its anterior (oral) sucker until it is full, then it drops off the host to digest its payload. It comes equipped with other suckers as well to ensure a good ‘grip’ on the host.

And so it is with life; there are givers and takers. As Jesus mentioned we cannot love God AND money. People who love God are generally (though not always) givers, whereas people who love money are generally (though not always) takers.

Some people are never truly satisfied. They are like leeches, prepared to suck and suck and suck, but unlike the leech, they never get full and drop off. If you’ve got a leech or know of one, you’ll identify with what I’m saying.

We see leeches in the workplace and in every sphere of society--people who expect things to be done for them all the time, or people who complain incessantly, for example. They leave a sour taste in the mouths of the rest of society. They suck the ‘blood’ out of the meaning in life.

The apostle Peter spoke about the Living Stone and a Chosen People in this way:

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” -1 Peter 2:9 (NIV).

When we’ve experienced this wonderful light of God we’re full of hope, love and faith, and it exudes from us. We connect with others like us, and we form a ‘giving alliance.’
Giving’s not simply about money, but time, and the provision of anything we have that’s available for others in need. It’s also the preparedness to do something for people, including chores and errands.

Serve or be served? Give or take? You be the judge of what is right and wrong. Then it’s a question of doing what our heart’s command of us.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] For more information go to:

The Common Curse: Greed towards Advancement Vs. the Faith Blessing

How often do we get excited about a free meal? I mean, when we’re invited out to lunch or dinner, perhaps it’s a date with a partner or prospective partner, or to a meeting where a ‘nosh-up’ is part of the deal, there’s the bonus value of eating some nice food. For the host it’s often an ‘elegant tradeable’--a cheap way of getting us there.

Yet, how often do we sell out for so little? Proverbs says,

“To show partiality is not good—
yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread.”
–Proverbs 28:21 (TNIV).

How often do we see it, people compromising in a moment’s silliness to gain what would be little of value in the overall scheme of things.

We hear of the insinuation that ‘He’d sell his grandmother for a piece of bread.’ I think reference to ‘a piece of bread’ is an exaggeration, but the general concept holds water.

The unfortunate fact is, the smallest gift or bribe or favour accepted often creates obligations not easily seen. We cannot often see what ‘strings’ others might attach.

Most of the time we need to be assertive regarding obligations others might impose on us beyond our will. But there will be times when the transaction is linked with an oath, and suddenly we’re obligated.

Perhaps the answer to the effect of one’s greed is to learn from the mistake, or do the following to free ourselves, as is mentioned in The Message:

“Dear friend, if you've gone into hock with your neighbor or locked yourself into a deal with a stranger,
If you've impulsively promised the shirt off your back
and now find yourself shivering out in the cold,
Friend, don't waste a minute, get yourself out of that mess.
You're in that man's clutches!
Go, put on a long face; act desperate.
Don't procrastinate—
there's no time to lose.
Run like a deer from the hunter,
fly like a bird from the trapper!” –Proverbs 6:1-5 (Msg).

The fundamental cause of our entrapment is often based in our own desire for advancement, recognition, comfort, or foolishness (we don’t see it coming).

It’s good to finally learn that ambition is generally not good, and has a way of actually reversing the process of advancement whilst simultaneously putting people on notice of our real intent. Getting to our goals without due regard, or adhering, to the appropriate processes is folly in the end. It never generally pays off.

“Desire without knowledge is not good—
how much more will hasty feet miss the way!” –Proverbs 19:2 (TNIV).

Greed and laziness have more in common than we first think. It is always good that we match our desires appropriately to knowledge. And this gets us back to faith and ‘fear of the LORD.’

“Evildoers do not understand what is right,
but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.” –Proverbs 28:5 (TNIV)

“[T]urning to Yahweh facilitates [makes easy] the difficult distinction between right and wrong. But this was surely not true only of the narrower sphere of moral behaviour. Faith does not--as is popularly believed today--hinder knowledge; on the contrary it is what liberates knowledge.”[1]

The faith/wisdom team help us have knowledge; knowledge tempers the desire of greed and ambition. Faith helps us also be patient. And knowledge helps with choice of the right path.

What we can be ‘bought for’ is a key to our integrity. Some things should never be up for sale, loaned or haggled over. Short cuts in life invariably don’t work out as short cuts; there are often painful consequences.

This issue is primarily about compromise. What are we prepared to give that shouldn’t be offered. And who are we offering it to? That too, is an important consideration. It is good to be alert and watchful.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] Roland E. Murphy, Proverbs – Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), p. 215. Murphy quotes G. von Rad, Wisdom, p. 68.

Friday, December 19, 2008

That Prayer of Jabez' - Its Relevance to You and Me

"Jabez cried to the God of Israel, saying, Oh, that You would bless me [indeed] and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and You would keep me from evil so it might not hurt me! And God granted his request."
-1 Chronicles 4:10 (mod. Amplified)
There are four parts to this prayer of Jabez; a prayer that has received much comment over the years, and whether true of false, many Christians have their own personal views on it.
I believe this:
That "Jabez was blessed simply because he refused to let any obstacle, person, or opinion loom larger than God's nature. And God's nature is to bless."[1] We hardly ever live life through this perspective; God is seeking to bless our obedience.
The part of the prayer I wanted to focus on is how we can ask God to 'enlarge our border,' that our influence might in time extend beyond where it does presently. Without God (and doing things his way), there is always limited growth in this life, whether it is in the secular life or spiritual life.
No matter what we do, if we can approach life with a prayer similar to what follows, I believe we can realise growth and extension of our personal and public life boundaries:
"O God and King, please expand my opportunities and my impact in such a way that I touch more lives for Your glory. Let me do more for You!"[2]
We're all apt at thinking 'Expand my territory??; I'm doing enough already,' but we know that somehow, as our willingness to do more for God and for others increases, we're also blessed with the "ability and resources" to do it.[3]
It's a risk. 'Do I overextend myself?' 'Will God back me with support?' Faith is required venturing into this sort of territory. No successful business person, minister, politician or humanitarian (and all good ones serve) has ventured out without taking this risk and step/journey of faith.
Strangely, God works mainly throught the weak who are willing. Wilkinson says that "My willingness and weakness + God's will and supernatural power = my expanding territory."[4] When we are willing, he (God) is able.
The reward for this chosen life-style of being the willing vessel of God's goodness is that boundaries expand and influence grows, without any planning and scheming on our behalf. This is the life where we "have a front-row seat in a life of [everyday, not supernatural] miracles."[5]
Copyright 2008, Steven John Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide.
[1] Bruce Wilkinson, The Prayer of Jabez - Breaking Through to the Blessed Life (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2000), p. 29.
[2] Wilkinson, Ibid, p. 32.
[3] Wilkinson, Ibid, p. 36.
[4] Wilkinson, Ibid, p. 41.
[5] wilkinson, Ibid, p. 44.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Compassion: The “Heartbeat” of any Decent Country; the World in Fact

Professor Fiona Stanley, world renowned for her passion for children, paraphrased Nelson Mandela,
“You can measure a country’s soul by the way it treats its most vulnerable.”[1]
In recent times, Western society has made quantum leaps in its consideration of the disabled, in building design and town planning, for instance.

But, we could extend the intent of this quote to Global proportions. How will the World respond to the growing Global Food Crisis in places most affected like Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic?[2]

We’re currently being hit with a double-whammy; Global economic crisis on the back of the Global Food Crisis. Paul O’Rourke of Compassion believes these “twin tsunamis” will be the catalyst for the church to experience its finest hour.[3] There is no doubting that the Millennium Development Goals of halving world poverty by 2015 are now in grave jeopardy, so O’Rourke’s call is particularly bold.

How will the World’s most affluent respond to the World’s neediest--our most vulnerable fellow human beings? How will we, the fattest countries, help those on the edge of starvation?

Compassion says that one child is dying every 7 seconds from hunger related causes.

And there are four ways Compassion says we can help as individuals:

Pray – asking God to bless these people with food, and to turn the crisis, and for people to respond in kindness, generosity and love.

Fast - If only we fasted. We could live the starving existence of 800 million affected, even for a day or two. It would actually be good for us, and not life-threatening as it is for the chronically-starved.

Give – our material possessions and a portion of the money we earn.

Share – perhaps this is the most important principle. It’s certainly of Christian heritage.

O’Rourke quotes Proverbs 11:24-25:

“One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”

The response at the individual level is just as critical as the Global response--if each person gave $5, what a difference that could make.

What about the global church effort? Surely there must be an innovative way to pool resources (globally) for the poor. Imagine the church as truly one in this way. What a wonderful vision. Forget about evangelism, saving lives with the basics is salvific enough.

How will the church help those most vulnerable? Jesus said about the stranger we didn’t help, the unclothed, the unfed, the unwatered, those in prison, and those sick and defenseless, “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” –Matthew 25:45b (NIV).

This is food for thought, pardon the pun.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[2] Source:
[3] Paul O’Rourke, “CEO Message – A Time to Rise” in Compassion Magazine, Summer 2008, p. 3.

Expect It When You Least Expect It: The Nature of Life

I recall the playing of practical jokes as a young guy where, if you were on the receiving end, you’d say, ‘Expect it back when you least expect it.’

There’s a lesson in diligence right below through the pen of Balthasar Gracian. He says:

“Have no careless Days... Fate loves to play tricks, and will heap up chances to catch us unawares. Our intelligence, prudence, and courage, even our beauty, must always be ready for trial. For their day of careless trust will be that of their discredit.

“Care always fails just when it was most wanted. It is thoughtlessness that trips us up into destruction. Accordingly it is a piece of military strategy to put perfection to its trial when unprepared. The days of parade are known and are allowed to pass by, but the day is chosen when least expected so as to put valour to the severest test.”

We need to be at our best as much as we can. But the fact is some days we have our share of luck and some we don’t. For those who purport we make our own luck, there is an element of truth, but it doesn’t hold 100 percent.

Warren Buffet once said, “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.” We don’t think cautiously enough as we venture through the various seasons of life. We deal effectively for years and then without warning we venture, at times inexplicably, from the good road.

When we think about it, tests and trials that come when things aren’t going well--to test the strength of our systems, are not all bad so long as we’re prepared to learn from the lessons revealed.

And when we survive tests that come without warning there is a double touch of satisfaction because we triumphed in genuine duress, and we can be appropriately and quietly confident in future similar situations. This is provided we continue to ‘expect it when we least expect it.’

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

On Suicide...

[This is not an article glamorising suicide.]

Life is incredulous. How can it be that one moment we can be at our total depth, helpless and completely vulnerable, and then, only a matter of hours later, we’re at peace again? The next step, miraculously, we find a way out.

February 23, 2004, was a day I will never forget. In fact, that few days ensuing from this date was unforgettable. I had been separated from my then wife for five months and was seemingly over the worst of the grief of the event of separation.

Without much warning I swan-dived into an abyss. I recall being at work and being all at sea for the entire morning. Desperate for solace I contacted a helpline and chatted for twenty minutes or so. It didn’t really help me.

When I reached the end of my tether I visited the site manager and explained I needed time off--he was very sympathetic having only recently gone through the pain of separation himself.

I can recall feeling so overwhelmed and consumed with sorrow and perplexity, the process was mentally torturous. I was rapidly reaching the end of my reasonable mind.

Without going into the sordid details, I approached what I’d call a ‘fork in the road.’ At this point I had an option to end it all, or try (once again) to seek help. God helped me as I instinctively chose the latter option.

A matter of an hour or two later, I had had that cleansing, loving and encouraging chat with my parents on the patio of their home that proved pivotal and turned the corner for me. It was one of the most defining points in my life.

How often do people suicide when that turning point might still be part of their near destinies? Salvation is closer than we think.

This event for me was the second time I had experienced such reason that saved me from a perilous end. The legacy of my daughters pulled me through.

My brother-in-law told me recently of his mechanic who’d suicided and left a young wife and newborn child. There were no warning signs apparently. It’s senseless.

I always wonder in these situations... on the other side, would he be thinking, “Why did I do that,” as he faces possible eternal purgatory and separation from his partner and child (and future children), life, grandchildren etc.

Once death occurs, that’s it. It might seem obvious, but we only die once. Once we’ve died it’s over; life’s too short. None of us get enough time here, so why would we (in our right minds) end it?

Yet, the reality is many do it; succeed that is. Right now, this very minute, people all around the world are ending their lives, bringing an end to the potential of life, and sorrow to those who remain. Some perhaps do it because they tire of life; fatigue does it in the end. Some do it due to unfit mind; others perhaps mistakenly succeed... now, that’s a huge tragedy.

It’s a tragedy that I can personally identify with and I think most people have been touched by it.

As a society, we must do more for this hidden dilemma. We never hear of it until we’re hit personally with it. We must raise or create more awareness. We have to do something to prevent at least some of these tragedies.

We somehow must get the message out there that deliverance, recovery and life is close at hand if we don’t give up.

[To end my story which I started initially... from February 23, 2004 I experienced more spiritual recovery and the ensuing few months saw much strengthening occur within me. It was part of the journey for me in becoming the more well-adjusted person I am today. I am very thankful to God for it.]

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Procrastination’s Folly

The 17th Century marvel, Balthasar Gracian stated in his Art of Worldly Wisdom, “The wise do at once what the fool does at last...

“Both do the same thing; the only difference lies in the time they do it: the one at the right time, the other at the wrong. Who starts out with his mind topsyturvy will so continue till the end. He catches by the foot what he ought to knock on the head, he turns right into left, and in all his acts is but a child. There is only one way to get him in the right way, and that is to force him to do what he might have done of his own accord. The wise man, on the other hand, sees at once what must be done sooner or later, so he does it willingly and gains honour.”

Recently I was required to produce a report and present its findings at a bi-annual review of performance. I did so in one category and there was a colleague who did so also, for another category within the business.

Due to busyness or other priorities (or excuses) I recall starting the planning process for the report days earlier. My colleague had started three weeks earlier. And this proved to be the difference in my opinion.

The structure and layout of the information in her report was much cleaner than mine; the findings more impactful, and conclusions cleaner. And, she had answered all criteria consistently.

She was applauded, and rightfully so, and I was commensurately embarrassed by my own effort.

There’s a certain diligence required for wisdom. It does its thing at the right time regardless of the cost. It must just start.

Procrastination is so self-defeating. Added to the weight of the task is the weight of putting it off. It seems to free us, but we are not free; we only condemn ourselves with each minute we delay.

The message is simple: get started and keep going. Do this to experience the exhilaration and spoils of victory.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

We’re Bound for Glory (Whether we Like it or Not)

I recall singing Rose Tattoo’s “Bound for Glory” buoyantly and gallantly after every major step toward a grand final victory; the finest hour of any sporting club. The team atmosphere was electric, each team member, and the group as a whole, fusing onto the concept of the coming glory of victory. It’s a hard experience to match as far as an intrinsic, consuming joy is concerned.

When we receive glory we’re heaped with honour and praise and blessing--it’s intrinsically good.

But, glory is a dualist concept. Glory the noun is about something “glorious,” i.e. God in all his ‘glory.’ Then there’s the verb, i.e. giving glory or receiving glory e.g. praise. This discussion is about the former; the Glory that awaits those who love God.

This Glory is the manifest power, grace, strength, wealth and might of God that can’t be imagined or comprehended this side of eternity. Yet, it’s coming.

I’m sure we don’t very often think of the Glory coming to us; the glory of the life after this one. Looking at life through that eyeglass brings a whole new concept to this life—we’re creating history that has meaning--and that meaning has eternal significance.

Everything we do has significance, though we’re rarely aware of it, more’s the pity.

In the award-winning motion picture, Gladiator, Russell Crowe’s character, Maximus, led his contingent into battle with the charge, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.” In a sense, the moments are never ceasing, even lasting. Every time we meet as a family we create history... every interaction in the workplace and in life; some of it will be talked about for days, weeks, years and generations to come. We write the pages of our lives every second.

In the very final analysis, we’re bound for Glory whether we like it or not. We will all come face to face with God. In the book of Revelation (14:6-13), John’s vision of the three angels proclaiming the Glory of God underscores both the coming blessing for those who believe in God (and advance his will) and the coming wrath for those who defiantly resist God, and his will.

We are painting that canvas right now, in the present time--by virtue of not only our decision for or against God, but also in our direct obedience and disobedience to him, regarding the numerous daily choices to love or reject love, and embrace light or darkness.

This message is for “every nation and tribe and tongue and people.” (14:6b NRSV) No human being is exempt. We’re all bound for Glory. Whether the Glory of God will bless us or shatter us is up to us; it’s our decision. And we have full power to make it.

We back our initial decision of belief with our thoughts, words and deeds. This is what makes belief (and unbelief) real. As James 2:17 (NRSV) says “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

Can we afford to not “fear God and give him glory”? (Revelation 14:7 NRSV)

How could we afford not to love our loved ones and others the best way we can now, while we have the opportunity? “Now” is here.

What we do in life, echoes in eternity. We will need to be prepared to account for everything we’ve said and done the moment we meet our great and holy Maker.

It’s food for continuous thought.

Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.