Thursday, April 30, 2009

Three Lives of the Common Human Being

To most who read the title of this article, it makes no sense. One life, yes… two lives perhaps if you’re a spiritual person, believing in the life hereafter i.e. heaven and hell… but three lives? Stay with me.

We all have three very unique parts to our lives. There’s the public life, the personal life, and the private life. I want to particularly focus on the private life or world of each of us. But first, let’s get the private life in context with the other two.

The Public Life

The public life is obviously the life that everyone can see. It’s who we are to others in the world, generally. It’s what we say and do, and our own perception of same, together with others’ perceptions of who we are. Our public relationships are, by our own choice, kept largely at a “safe distance.”[1]

The Personal Life

The personal life is hidden to a large extent, and only our family and close friends get to see this part of our life. “In such settings, we are more relaxed and vulnerable.”[2] Every now and then, however, there are times we don’t shield our personal time enough from work colleagues and the like, and they’re able to peer in for perhaps unwelcome, albeit unavoidable, ‘glimpes.’ This can cause some mild to moderate embarrassment. (Know what I mean?)

The Private Life

Now for the nexus of life itself! Gordon Macdonald’s book, Ordering Your Private World has revolutionised the spiritual life of many a “called” person. This below is an excerpt from John Mark Ministries, by Thomas Scarborough, on maximizing the private life:

[The book] proposes a wheel of balance with five segments: motivation, use of time, wisdom and knowledge, spiritual strength, and restoration. At the same time, the book has a sound emphasis on one’s calling… the five segments of the “wheel of balance,” [are:]

* Motivation -- don’t be driven, but listen for the call of Christ

* Time -- it is God’s gift, use it carefully, allocate it in terms of giftedness

* Wisdom and knowledge -- grow in wisdom and knowledge, and put these to use

* Spiritual strength -- enlarge the spiritual centre of your life

* Restoration -- press Sabbath peace into the rush and routine of life[3]
Clearly this ‘private life’ is a place where we ought to have maximum personal influence and it is the place where all our secrets find a welcome (or not so welcome) home. When we’re able to ‘order our private world’s’ we can finally become more the person God designed us to be, and this is toward the realisation of our God-purposed destiny.

Bringing the Three Together

Integrating the public and personal lives such that both are common to each other in the majority is a wise move. We are then able to remove duplicity and hypocrisy due to our more inherent honesty and integrity. There is better alignment.

The private life always stays quite private, until we die that is, or when one of those ‘secrets’ is let out of the bag (adding credence to the Sy Rogers’ truth: ‘You tell on the sin or it will tell on you’); at times then, it can come out--the sort of person we may have revealed ourselves to be. Adding congruence from the other two is hence a good idea.

Each of our private lives is sacrosanct. When we earn the right to be let into the private life of someone… a son or daughter, or a wife or husband, it bodes us to respect this space of theirs, entering carefully and cautiously and being very careful not to move the ‘furniture of their feelings’ around too much.[4]

Acknowledgement to Growing Kids God’s Way material from the Ezzo’s (cited) for the ‘three life’ structure which I have embellished in a different direction.
[1] 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), p. 74.
[2] Ezzo, Ibid, p. 74.
[3] Source: (Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World (Glasgow, Scotland: Highland Books, 1984 (reprinted 2000)).
[4] Ezzo, Op Cit, p. 74-75.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Simile of Wisdom, Law & Worship in Psalm 119

“Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I will keep it to the end [steadfastly]… Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity (idols and idolatry); and restore me to vigorous life and health in Your ways”
–Psalm 119:33, 37 (Amplified).

Psalm 119 is often considered a psalm of the wisdom genre, yet every line it seems is etched with legal terms of God’s law. It seems a never-ending meditative prayer of the psalmist who is fearful of letting go lest he risk giving up the prize of the true knowledge of, and obedience to, God.

This portion of the longest of the one hundred and fifty biblical psalms talks about ‘worthless’ things, continuing the incessant prayer of the psalmist to abide by the statutes and decrees (the covenant) of the Lord--until the very end. The NIV and Message paraphrase have verse 37:

“Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” (NIV)

“Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets, invigorate me on the pilgrim way.” (Msg)

Unpacking this pithy little verse is tantamount to the opening of Pandora’s Box, as we see profoundly the vast divergences of life; one of worship in extremes.

Psalm 1 (NIV) tells us that the person who ‘delights in the law of the LORD’ cannot help meditating on the law with devotion both day and night. They’re immersed in it as if the law was an unfathomable ocean and they were addicted to swimming in it. Perhaps they’re so fearful that it might be to their own peril to stop; “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,” as Proverbs 1:7 (NIV) has it. And this is true. To stop, for these, would be to totally dishonour, and turn from, God.

And this is the essential blending of wisdom with the law that both are inextricable. Both call to each other. Wisdom, among much more, is fundamentally turning from worthless things to the law, which is the Word of God.

And this is the ‘pilgrim way,’ of rejecting the world’s trappings and turning back to the eternal God and his things of eternity. What does it serve us (or God) when we chase after all the gadgetry, ‘toys and trinkets’ in the world (perhaps even in God’s name?) but lose the essence of the ‘life in his way?’ Let us be forever watchful, as the psalmist, continually aware and abiding.

We’re all inclined to worship… what (object/s) or who (subject/s) is it though, that we worship? And what thought and activity defines our worship?

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

Monday, April 27, 2009

Transcendent Wisdom

Transcendent[1] Wisdom... “I mean in everything. The first and highest rule of all deed and speech, the more necessary to be followed the higher and more numerous our posts, is: an ounce of wisdom[2] is worth more than tons of cleverness[3].

“It is the only sure way, though it may not gain so much applause.

“The reputation of wisdom is the last triumph of fame.

“It is enough if you satisfy the wise, for their judgment is the touchstone of true success”
–Balthasar Gracian.

Why do some people who attain ‘high posts’ in life fail morally? Is it based in a lack of spiritually-discerned wisdom? Do they choose blindness and cheat to their own peril, falling into their own traps?[4]

Do some apparently ‘rich’ and worldly people not see the laws of wisdom controlling the universe? Do they not see the inevitability of everything?

Wisdom beats adroitness, in the final analysis, every single time.

It confounds the “common sense” of humanity.

Where the hare might pinch an advantage, the tortoise makes up for in diligence, waiting for the hare’s inevitable slip. And it’ll come; there’s nothing quite surer. And guess who wins, finally?

And these facts are every bit more important the higher the ladder of life we climb, for we’re exposed to the chilly, thin air at altitude, and this scrutinises our senses and our innate character, in the form of our interpretation and response.

Though wisdom may seem the slow way around and a waste of time to many, things done right are blessed--and that, by faith.

The sage acts for applause, but not from the populace or any mere human being; and the LORD is pleased. Anything else and the sage would be savage.

Wisdom doesn’t always bring the thrills of ingenuity, but oh... it lasts.

We may not look so polished and slick, but the One who looks down sees the eternal value of the work of genuine sagacity.[5]

And the sage knows a consistency of application of wisdom that all the populace cannot fathom.

At times, the most wise look like fools--yet they remain. They are seen at last, not having the last laugh; that would be futile. Laughter is irrelevant. They had the authenticity of faith to know the outcome eons ago. They don’t always perceive or know how or why, but they simply act in faith.

The outcome is no surprise to them. Barring the details it is almost routine.

“Common sense” people expect the game to finish early, at the incorrectly appointed time. Little do they see that this is but one battle--and life is one battle after another after another--the war (i.e. analogous for life), the bigger picture, is gargantuan in comparison. They deceive themselves.

The journey remains in time (at least as far as humanity is concerned), and this belongs, like everything else, to the One.

The wise know enough and do only enough; more would be a waste--unaffordable extravagance. “Enough,” in raw, honest truth, is the delicate (right) balance that few attain. “Enough”--the transcendent wisdom way--is, however, about extravagant kingdom love of the Ages. It meets the real, basic, spiritually-discerned requirements every time. This is our potential.

Searching for wisdom of the transcendent kind is a lifelong search well beyond the self’s default contains. It is the constant rejection of the seeming ‘good life’ for a life of faith and trust, and not sight and pat knowledge. It is to be discerned. It is contingent on relationship with the One.

Constant surrender to the spiritually-discerned will of the One will bring us close to the intrinsic purpose of wisdom; life both bound and freed by it. Can life have a more important purpose than finding wisdom?--the wisdom of the One, eternal God.

And true wisdom is transcendent above all else; the final frontier of the right path and remaining on it, one day at a time.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Transcendent: exceeding usual limits : surpassing b: extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experience c in Kantian philosophy : being beyond the limits of all possible experience and knowledge 2: being beyond comprehension 3: transcending the universe or material existence — compare immanent 4: universally applicable or significant "the antislavery movement…recognized the transcendent importance of liberty — L. H. Tribe."
[2] Wisdom: accumulated philosophic or scientific learning : knowledge b: ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : insight c: good sense : judgment d: generally accepted belief "challenges what has become accepted wisdom among many historians — Robert Darnton." 2: a wise attitude, belief, or course of action 3: the teachings of the ancient wise men
[3] Cleverness: synonyms clever, adroit, cunning, ingenious mean having or showing practical wit or skill in contriving. clever stresses physical or mental quickness, deftness, or great aptitude "a person clever with horses." adroit often implies a skillful use of expedients to achieve one's purpose in spite of difficulties "an adroit negotiator." cunning implies great skill in constructing or creating "a filmmaker cunning in his use of special effects." ingenious suggests the power of inventing or discovering a new way of accomplishing something "an ingenious software engineer."
synonyms see in addition intelligent
[4] See Proverbs 11:6; 12:13; and especially 28:10.
[5] Genuine sagacity might not appear so wise to the common human being. But he or she that seeks it, however, has a way to genuine kingdom qualities of humility and the Fruit of the Spirit etc i.e. the slow, sure way home.

An Explosion of Fact: Breaking into a Living Hell

MOMENTS LIKE THESE punctuate life. A young woman confronts a young man--both are cousins of similar age. It occurs in the driveway of the young man’s house. He’s sporting cuts and bruises from the most recent drunken brawl he’s been involved in. She’s a law student. Their lives until now have sharply diverged. Now they’re about to converge, and like the arcing of two great oppositely-charged poles of electrical current, they’re on a collision course.

She is furious. She fumes because she cares so much and is torn. She states the facts emphatically in a last ditch effort to cause some consternation to furrow his brow. She fears the damage he might cause. She fears losing him, and that ‘knock at the door.’

He’s not with it, clearly, both in the moment and about life itself. He just doesn’t seem to get it. He exists to party and drink and drug (as if there were no other purpose to life) and then inextricably finds himself in a world of trouble the next day--it’s his routine. A routine destined in pain.

She’s almost the only family he has; at least she’s the only one who seems to care. And she knows only full well that this is the case. The burden weighs heavily on her shoulders. Grounded so much is she, it’s a lesson he needs but probably won’t heed. Drunks almost never really do, at least that is until they’re swept up half in death itself--even then it’s too late for some.

This scene is characteristic of that which occurs with monotonous regularity in life. One person who’s lost their way in life getting the talking to by another person who can’t help seeing and noting the truth. Yet, the person who observes the reality is helpless to do anything about it. Tragically, the decision for change rests with the one least equipped to make it.

It’s a wake-up call from the ages. It’s an interruption to the prevailing routine; the light of reality beaconing into the darkness. It’ll need all the intensity it can get.

And this will never change this side of heaven. The broken twisted world will never reconcile these moral delinquents; the broken world with its broken parents and broken people in positions of authority, not to mention the inescapable broken market economy, and other such things, will continue to reinforce it.

The point is we must accept all the bad with the good, and keep trying and praying in any event. That ‘lost’ person in our midsts has a chance if they think they have a chance, and we must try to create this in them through the power of God.

God is in the serious business of miracles. But, even God cannot sway the will of some. If only these people could understand and accept that we must lose our lives to save them.

Seemingly more than anyone, this person needs Jesus, as he said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) So many go the former way--the way of the world--and this is the way of living Gehenna[1] in comparison to the latter.

Sometimes we do get to see and experience firsthand the miracles God orchestrates in the lives of the ‘especially broken’... sometimes.

Finding Jesus means finding life, though we must give it up i.e. what we think it is, before we can gain it. We may often find we’ve lived half a lifetime without much of a clue. And then for the very first time we live by Faith.

It’s not too late to call on the name of the Lord, your very personal God. Going to talk to someone who might lead us in that right direction could be the first step.

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

[1] “Gehenna” means a place or state of misery (Merriam-Webster).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

“Hey Preacher, Are you talking about me?”

Without doubt one of the most common things people in church experience is that uncanny sense of déjà vu when a pastor or speaker preaches. It’s as if that man (or woman) had been inside our heart or lives and knew us as much as we knew ourselves; especially the secret stuff--that which is inclined to stay closeted.

I get this experience almost every time I experience God’s Word preached. Yet, it’s not as if the preacher or speaker knows our intimate position even remotely, though we’d be forgiven for feeling a little paranoid.

I don’t have that much these days to feel guilty for, carnally, but even the little things cause much consternation during moments of forced reflection. But this is a healthy practice, because it keeps us spiritually sharp--it is the process of God’s refining fire; the crucible for silver and the furnace for gold… we’re tested by the praise and rebukes we receive as God continually tests our hearts (Proverbs 17:3; 27:21).

The pastor is sharpening us in this process--we’re sharpening each other in fact (Proverbs 27:17) as we walk this journey together with and toward God.

It is the preacher’s role as prophet to speak to our hearts as God’s instrument for not only encouragement, hope and instruction in growth, but also for correction and rebuke. When we’re ‘spoken to’ in ways that we feel the preacher is pointing directly to us in their words, we ought to take heed that it is actually God speaking through them to us.

Then it is up to us to make an honest assessment as to whether we’re simply a little too paranoid or there’s more to it. Generally, paranoia is a sign that something needs to be dealt with. God could be revealing something to us that we should turn from, or no less, do or start doing.

The thing to take into account is preachers are human beings too. They know only full well what goes on in the human mind and heart--they know the temptations, the weaknesses, the selfishness, the unmanaged anger, and self-pity; the sum myriad of vices.

They know each one listening, observing them preach, has his or her own issues that dog them. And they too have their own issues. They’re far from perfect themselves.

And it is their task to gently reveal these issues through the process of self-revelation as God speaks to the heart of each person in attendance. Often times, pastors will preach a message that hits a completely different mark (to that they’d initially intended) for some people. The Holy Spirit works mysteriously.

Chances are the preacher is speaking to you, but he might not even be aware of it! Now, that’s got to be a God-thing!

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

The Golden Rule, Simply Put

“Fundamentalist groups say Warren hangs out with Jews and Muslims and gays and on and on. The point is, I’m not allowed to not love anybody” –Rick Warren. Isn’t it amazing how very simple the gospel message is? Yet it is common humanity that spoils God’s perfect ideal with onerous legalism. The perfect ideal is the Golden Rule.

This golden rule of Jesus is based on the consistent application of treating others as you want to be treated.

Imagine treating the next person you see exactly as you’d like to be treated. Doesn’t sound that hard does it... ironically, however, trying something that makes such sense in theory produces some marked transformations in our, and others’, thinking. There, in a moment, is the revelatory transcendent power of God made real, in one simple illustration.

This simple golden rule cuts both with and against the grain and some simply don’t get it that it’s a heart attitude based in the ‘moral why.’

Jesus said, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” –Matthew 7:9-12 (TNIV). (The Golden Rule in italics.)

There are probably a thousand points of note in the passage above. To pick just one--in connecting the bread/stone and fish/snake allegories with the golden rule--it could be ‘if it is good, why would we not give to someone (and not only our ‘son’) what they want?’ The Father does; when we ask for good things, things pleasing to his will, he gives--and plentifully at that.

We’re to model this. We’re not to withhold good things or our love, via our actions, from others. And we need to do it consistently, especially when no one is looking. When no one is looking, he (God) still sees. (Who are we fooling when we pretend no one’s looking?)

And, yes, it often costs us to give. We’re to learn to not count costs. Love costs--and mostly of ourselves; we’re to acknowledge it and move on to higher things using the will of the mind. This way loving becomes a habit of instinctive choice. We think ourselves into behaving in a consistently loving way. Our minds are transforming our hearts in this way, but our requisite understanding is based in the Golden Rule--this drives our understanding and behaviour. So, in this way our hearts also convict our minds.

A basic premise of Christianity is learning how to consistently apply the Golden Rule; giving good things to those who want them, just as we ourselves would want them. It will take focus for the rest of our lives to master it, one day at a time.

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

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Grief: the Commonest Emotion (Part 2 of 2)

“GRIEF is a dark, lonely, private room with the curtains drawn, where cherished memories of laughter and tears dance with angels in the cathedral of the heart. No one may enter. None are welcome. No words penetrate its walls or ease the pain that fills it. The door remains locked until the will pries it open to allow the helpless, well-meaning, outside world to enter and interrupt its sanctity.”[1]

Oh, the pain of it all! In that desolate place where we’re totally alone we feel certainly as if no one could ever feel like this, surely... but the truth is, we’ve all felt it or will feel it--its variants, that is.

Grief: how do we possibly rationalise it?

Numbness... Rob Bell talks about grief in his “Nooma”[2] production, Matthew. Jesus wept... he was ‘deeply moved in his spirit’ with the death of his good friend, Lazarus.[3] He was agonisingly angry, indignant and moved compassionately to act. He raised him, but not before he was already stricken with grief that we all feel at one point or other in life.

Bell cites Psalm 71:20, “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.” (NIV) Restoration of life is the reinstatement of hope. The God of hope, though he allows troubles, sees us through in the end.

We will recover if we believe we will. When we believe in something, we have faith. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” –Hebrews 11:1 (NIV). We can’t have faith we see or it wouldn’t be faith. Faith is two-fold: our hope must be grounded in a reality we understand, and we must be confident that what we hope for (though we don’t see it) will happen, eventually.

And in grief, we hope unswervingly for better days.

To the aggrieved: It’s okay to feel anything you’re feeling or have felt. Accepting it is okay. Grief brings with it a range of subsidiary emotions, all of which are fine. Anything goes, provided it doesn’t bring or create harm.

Perhaps the most appropriate response to another’s loss is to just be sorry for their loss, not pitying, just quietly acknowledging. Compassion meets loss in a strange, unexplained sort of way.

Sitting Shivah is the process of sitting silently with the person grieving, a process in Jewish tradition taking seven days. It’s a humble acceptance that there’s nothing to say, unless the grieving person initiates. True to the opening quote, words do not often assuage grief. Yet an interruption of the sanctity of grief--at the right time--is eventually (and especially) a good thing.

From my personal experience, the best thing about grief (though we don’t think this at the time) is we can get intimately acquainted with the richness and cleanness of emotion in the grief. I recall singing the old hymn It Is Well With My Soul; having experienced the pain of profound grief these songs are not only therapy in the deepest pain, but afterwards too.

Experiencing bravely the clean pain of grief leaves a solid legacy in the heart, a tangibility of reserve, and a sense that we’ve been touched deliciously and irrefutably by God.

We see afterwards that it’s not that bad; in fact, it’s often the best way to come to know God in the truest sense. And this can never be taken away from us; it’s the ultimate possession. And we carry the benefits forevermore.

Grief is the commonest emotion, and as parents, friends and mentors, it bodes us to allow the process, making its ‘sanctity’ welcome in every way. Nurturing it and not hiding it is the best way to be and become truly us.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
See Part 1 to this series: Commonest Emotion Grief Part 1 of 2 which was published on 21 February 2009 and on on 24 February 2009.
[1] Billy Thorpe, Sex and Thugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll (Sydney, Australia: Pan Macmillan Australia, 1996), p. 368.
[2] Nooma is a play on the Greek word ‘pneuma’ which is Greek for “spirit.”
[3] John 11:33 (NIV).

The Love Languages Explained Simply

There’s a good chance that if your love is missing the mark in an important relationship (even slightly) you’re not ‘speaking’ the right love language in that relationship. It’s a good thing to get in tune with your important relationships by attending to each of these ways of expressing your love, and receiving love gracefully.

Encouraging Words

People who prefer to love and be loved with encouragement will wonder why their encouragement doesn’t inspire everyone. It’s a surprise to these people that not everyone wants (or needs) to be encouraged.

People with a strong bent for affirmation will appreciate honesty, but not brutal honesty. They’re easily hurt by unfair or flippant criticism and these people are also quite perceptive of the moods and feelings of others.

Don’t waste your gifts on these people; a genuine thanks and the occasional public recognition are pretty much all the reward people strong in this language need.

Acts of Service (helping)

Actions speak louder than words for people speaking this love langauge. These people love to help; in fact, they cannot help offering and may even become offended if that offer is refused.

They also often love to receive help. Even the thought that someone is thinking of helping this person will mean they’ll feel good, loved and cared for. Favours (both ways) are the key currency here.

They expect people to simply start helping whenever there’s work to do and may even get frustrated when people wait to be asked, or don’t show an instinctive desire to help.

Gift-giving (and receiving)

The uninitiated might think that the ‘gift-givers’ are either very generous or very materialistic; the truth is no such aspersion can be made. They simply like to give or receive spontaneity. Love is spontaneous, there’s no question about it.

Freebies, important dates, trinkets, mementos and keepsakes put spice into the lives of people with a strong preference for gift-giving and receiving.

Gift-givers and receivers are possibly the most joyous people because they’ll often think creatively about surprising people with their love; equally, they’re often more ‘surprisable’ than most others.

Quality Time

For these, it’s not good enough to just be together with their special person, they need to be the focus of the time. It’s about “undivided attention.”[1]

These people are generally ‘people’ persons. They need to be involved and having valuable friendships, where there is an emphasis on talking, is very enriching. Togetherness and quality conversation are premium commodities for those yearning this type of love.

Dr. Chapman remarks in his book that this language is also responsible for those loving memories of courting, dating and burgeoning friendships that we all like to reminisce upon.[2]

Touch (or closeness of contact)

A close personal space and playful nudges, pats and hugs are the norm here. These people are suckers for a good massage, and they love a timely hug or just to rub shoulders with people, particularly from the special ones in their life.

Giving someone the cold shoulder (in a physical way) that has physical touch as a preferred love language can be very hurtful to them. They also appreciate eye contact and especially take note of the body language of those who they interact with.

Smiles, and other affirmative gestures, are given by and work well with those who appreciate physical touch.

Combining the Love Languages

It is most common that people prefer two or perhaps three of these languages, or ways of loving and being loved. And we all have at least a mild preference for all of the love languages in any event.

It’s also a very good idea to know our own love language preferences so we can be all-the-more self-aware. It’s then a potential platform for working on those languages that don’t come naturally.

We should be adept at giving (and receiving) in all five ways because it’s a good basic way to love all people. It’ll also really help us understand where others are coming from.

When all is said and done, love is choice and it can make all the difference, and it can work even when we’re prepared to abandon a relationship. “Love never fails,” said Paul, referring to everything else failing before it i.e. love.[3]

If you’re ready to learn your love languages and courageous enough to ask another person theirs, you could benefit by doing, or using, this survey: The-Love-Languages-Unofficial-Survey

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate (Chicago, Illinois: Northfield Publishing, 1992, 1995), p. 55.
[2] Chapman, Ibid, p. 71.
[3] See 1 Corinthians 13:8.

Friday, April 24, 2009

“Multiple Intelligences” Theory & Survey for Children

As a parent of a child who might struggle academically (or in any area of life for that matter) the issue of multiple intelligences can bring a great level of relief in that there is finally hope for their future; that even though they mightn’t set the academic world on fire, they could very well succeed in some other equally important field.

Multiple Intelligences theory proposed by Howard Gardner (1983) can be described “as an idea that maintains [that] there exist many different types of “intelligences” ascribed to human beings.”

“In response to the question of whether or not measures of intelligence are scientific, Gardner suggests that each individual manifests varying levels of different intelligences, and thus each person has a unique “cognitive profile.”

“The theory was first laid out in Gardner’s 1983 book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, and has been further refined in subsequent years. In 1999 Gardner list[ed] seven intelligences: linguistic, logic-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily kinaesthetic, interpersonal and intrapersonal.”[1]

The beauty of this theory is it gives relevance to intelligence beyond that which is merely acquired or promoted via academic means. A sportsperson or musician can thus be intelligent in their own right.

This is a salve for anyone who has children struggling academically, for there is hope once we find out what their strengths might be using this construct.

A broad array of style sensitivity in children “validates educators’ everyday experience: students think and learn in many different ways.” And this has led to “new approaches that might better meet the needs of the range of learners” in schools and homes and a whole range of environments, including workplaces, today.[2]

Education should be at its zenith about the “development of understanding.”[3] And Gardner clearly and succinctly puts forth a cogent vision of education:

“Deep understanding should be our central goal; we should strive to inculcate understanding of what, within a cultural context, is considered true or false, beautiful or unpalatable, good or evil... [and these themes]... motivate individuals to learn about and understand their world.” [4]
And this is, as a parent, our chief task: to promote in our children the development of understanding in all the spheres that might encompass, and not merely the academic.

For children to develop their God-given potential in their strength areas they must be given maximum opportunities and these can only be given once there is some understanding of what the strength areas might be.

And surely the key challenge into the future, regarding education’s role, is to integrate this holistic understanding of intelligence with morality as we further expand upon societal outputs (in real and sustainable terms toward life) at all levels.

For removing the traditional educational stigma and ignorances by providing a broader concept of understanding and intelligence can only promote that every single human being has a purpose, a hope and a future--and no less a contribution to make than the next person.

Each child is already perfect at the level of their potential. It is our task to unlock and encourage this potential.

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

A very good, basic Multiple Intelligences survey (specifically for children) can be found at: Birmingham Grid for Learning Survey
s s
[1] I couldn’t do better than this entire quote (all three) from Wikipedia:
[2] Mindy L. Kornhaber, “Howard Gardner – 1943-” in Joy A. Palmer, David Edward Cooper, Liora Bresler (eds.), Fifty Modern Thinkers on Education – From Piaget to Present (London & New York, Routledge, 2001), p. 276.
[3] Kornhaber, Ibid, p. 276.
[4] Kornhaber, Ibid, p. 276.

Running a False Script Anywhere in the Program?

“We can never see past the choices we don’t understand” –The Oracle, in The Matrix Reloaded (2003). We are so bound by our perceptions. It is the cage and formidable construct of the human nature. And what’s the cause?

... A propensity toward false scripting...

False, errant scripts make the world run haywire. Whether they’re illustrated by wrong coding or a virus in a computer, poor learning in the human brain, or a machine with a faulty chip, drive belt or switch, they ironically wreak havoc everywhere but the place they’re designed to function for. These are no longer fit-for-purpose.

A confounding paradox has emerged.


Our choice is like this... they’re often based on false scripting. And we hardly ever realise it.

When we make choices in life, the choices we’re destined to make, we at times don’t see other options as desirable because we can’t understand them; we therefore don’t see them the way we could. They just don’t fit us. It’s the square-peg-in-the-round-hole syndrome, but in a way that’s not our perception in the sight of others i.e. the way others see us, but our own limiting perceptions of the world. In other words, we choose the square peg.

Magnets, Boredom and (Incorrectly Restored) Order

The human brain picks up so much junk along the journey of life. We’re like magnets picking up anything with iron in it. Some of it is polished and chrome-plated but some of it is plain scrap metal and not worth much.

We run off track and the smallest things distract and deter us. We start a golden venture, and before we know it we’re stuck down some alleyway or down a narrow, shallow creek--and we find it difficult to back-out. Our conscious thinking power is limited, and somehow at the roadblock, we run for stimulation. We get bored easily and we hate that, desperate as we are to restore some level of mental utopia; order out of the chaos we can’t stand.

Yet, the chaos should be a sign to us where (and when) it all went wrong. But we evade the question. We don’t explore the ambiguity. We run from it to what we know and feel comfortable with. (Recall that last time you ‘comfort ate?’)

Scripting (Programmed Thought)

Working through and correcting false scripts is hard; it’s not natural for us. But, it is achievable.

Physiologically, (as with good scripts) false scripts--which facilitate bad habits, wrong choices, decisions and actions--use slick myelinations in the brain that enable quick, efficient synapses[1] to occur.

These myelinations are insulated and protected ‘brain-wiring’ like controlling electrical circuits; they’re finished, sealed roadways powered for, and facilitating, thought--but, in these cases, they run to a place called ‘nowhere.’ They’re like natural tributaries of a stream where water flows naturally, of its own accord. And these streams flow errantly, entirely to the wrong destinations.

We’re more adept and more naturally inclined to think along the already-myelinated neural pathways (the cage and formidable construct of the human nature). We can see here how insidious habitual thinking is.

The Answer: Manual Thinking

But, we can revert to ‘manual’ thinking at any time we choose, it just needs to be a conscious choice... otherwise our subconscious mind will take over and make the choice for us i.e. to run on autopilot, hence the return to the entrenched (false) neural pathways and the consequent false script is run again, reinforcing the bad habit toward wrong choices, decisions and likely actions.

The power of the human mind is large, and we hardly ever tap into it. This is because we’re inherently lazy thinkers; again, this is ‘the cage and formidable construct of the human nature’ we’re talking about.

We can choose to ‘step up’ mentally at any time, however.

“We hardly ever realize that we can cut anything out of our lives, anytime, in the blink of an eye... a [person] is only the sum of his [or her] personal power, and that sum determines how he [or she] lives and how he [or she] dies.”[2]
This personal power can be harnessed any time. It’s quite simply a matter of our own choice.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] A ‘synapse’ is “the functional junction between two neurons... [it] may be electrical or chemical.” Every feeling, thought and action we have or make involves thousands of these neurological synapses. Source: Tortora & Grabowski, Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, 9th ed. (New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2000), Glossary G-37.
[2] Carlos Castaneda, “The Journey to Ixtlan” in The Wheel of Time: The Shamans of Ancient Mexico, Their Thoughts about Life, Death and the Universe (Los Angeles: Eidolona Press, 1998), pp. 75, 99.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A “House-Husband’s” Day at Home

Recently my wife and I swapped roles for the week--I was at home with my girls on the school holidays and doing the housework, and she was out each day at an ‘intensive,’ completing her Master’s degree. Unlike most men, I’ve long yearned to get more opportunities to be house-husband. Now here was another chance!

The first few days were great; lots of ‘Autumn-cleaning,’ washing, dishes, cooking etc. I was really starting to excel and exceeding my wife’s expectations was high on my list of goals for the week. To a large extent I succeeded.

Enter the grocery shopping, Thursday morning... I was looking forward to it, and I felt good. It only dawned on me after I arrived, however, it was going to be a pretty joyless activity; how disappointing.

Firstly, even though my shopping list was ordered perfectly (by my wife), I didn’t know the exact locations of most things I was looking for. It’s been long enough since I’d last done this task that it was suddenly foreign to me. I covered more ground than I’d hoped I would.

My ten year old was with me and she was marvellous, helping as much as she could.

Secondly, there were so many slow, unhelpful people in all those aisles!--and they often took the wrong side of the aisle (because I always took the correct side, didn’t I? [Not!])... Or they didn’t smile back when I smiled at them. (These ‘professional shoppers’ were probably saying, ‘Who let this clown loose?’)

It was a lesson in patience, as I had to remind myself several times that there was no rush, and there was no need to mow people down as I went... some things just never change i.e. my tendency toward impatience in crowds, do they?

I’m not sure if anyone else noticed, but I seemed (within myself) so quietly out of tune with the rest of the shoppers and staff at the supermarket. And I hardly expected it.

The jury’s still out regarding my fit for grocery shopping, but this part of the house-husband role was not my favourite. I couldn’t wait to get home again, back into my ‘comfort zone.’

It goes to show there’s still no perfect job in this life, and we can be surprised (and disappointed) in the most innocuous ways.
Getting a grip now... it could be worse, much worse...

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

Life’s Most Monumental Passage - the Wedding Day

“Don’t wish me happiness--I don’t expect to be happy… it’s gotten beyond that somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humour--I will need them all”

-Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Weddings are inordinately polar occasions. They’re illustrative of touch points in life when all is mysteriously awry, but a humble acceptance needs to ensue; calm in the midst of a whirlwind storm. And this is the screeching, indwelling pain--amid the auspicious excitement--of the Bride-to-be on her wedding day. According to biblical tradition and wisdom, she is giving up the rights to herself, her persona.

She trusts, albeit fleetingly and ever hopefully, that her husband will return to her, that which she needs--her very personal, essential person--the flower that is her heart. Her husband-to-be too, though he knows it not yet, has his own journey of giving up self to make.
He needs to do it, for himself and most certainly for his bride. And he needs to do it continuously for the marriage to be a success, and to make his bride truly happy.

Marriage is intrinsically needed by the vast majority of us, and certainly notwithstanding millions of reluctant singles. The single person often yearns like no other for marital union--the panacea toward true happiness.

There are times in life, beyond simply marriage, when things are just plainly horrible, but then there’s a paradoxically pleasant acceptance that accompanies these times. We’ve been there when we have to persist and there’s no choice but to courageously go on despite the wrenching within. Suddenly, tears come and the chest heaves in rhythmic pulses and volumes of sorrow. Weddings intuit the same sorts of emotions. Things are changing for good.

In a letter to a friend before her wedding to husband, Charles Lindbergh, Anne Morrow penned the quote at first, and one can only wonder the topsy-turvy emotional roller-coaster she was on.[1] This is reminiscent of reality.

There’s a stark, grounded wisdom in the thinking though. There’s a recognition that in all the bi-polar hopelessness of present-day mourning and inevitability, mixed with thoughts of the blissfully, ecstatic consummation to come, the world is still an ‘okay place’ to be.
Citing The Desiderata we can see:

You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.[2]

Getting back to the wedding imagery...

“Be good to each other, you two, and get to work on the singing, on the labor of love”


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

[1] For an implausible short piece on the sanctity of the wedding celebration try: ... this article above is somewhat inspired by this lovely short essay.
[2] Source:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Putting the ‘Care’ back into “Duty of Care”

It was only recently that it was shown to me this quite ironic fact. The term “duty of care” is quite a well known term in all sorts of circles, notwithstanding safety, which is the sphere of this discussion. “Duty of care” is quite an illogical term from a humanist viewpoint.

The term duty of care is a legal term of tort or civil law (and not actually typical of occupational safety and health (OS&H) law, which is criminal law) and outlines a ‘standard of care’ duly accorded to parties. When parties fail their duty of care, they’re found negligent, either wholly or contributarily.

The weird thing is duty of care from a layperson’s viewpoint appears to be an oxymoron. We might flippantly use the term in workplace settings to describe how people are failing in it. But, in essence, when we care we do it because we feel like doing it--it’s not a duty. It’s an act of devotion, rooted in love. We care because we want to, not because we have to.

Of course, duties of care are owed to us and by us all in all sorts of circumstances, and not simply in the workplace. We go on a holiday and the holiday operator is bound by certain duties (if we visit civilised countries). We go to a shopping centre or catch a bus; again, duties are owed us, and we too owe certain duties to others in the community. And this system is not new; its existence was established thousands of years ago.

Safety cultures emerge and grow in a caring environment, yet there are competing ‘duties’ of all parties to make safety work and these duties often fly in the face of the care component--a real dichotomy develops. When a manager discharges their duties, they’ll often challenge the way they care, and the tenuous balance.

Duty can become pronounced to the detriment of care. It’s recognising that when a leader discharges a duty, the care factor of his or her action is most often at question. There’s a real leadership skill in attaining a balance; holding both attributes up, in tension, simultaneously. It’s not a ‘either/or,’ but a ‘both/and’ situation.

Putting the ‘care’ back into “duty of care” is a difficult thing to achieve and it can only be done when there’s a larger emphasis on love and devotion over legalism and duty.

There’s an authenticity of intent needed.

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

Irresolvables – Awareness & Acceptance

OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,

When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth![1]

In short, on earth, at times, never the twain shall meet…

There was a situation for me recently that reminded me of the irresolvable nature of some problems and situations. It occurred in the professional setting with a rather complex incident reporting process. No matter what we did in seeking to improve this process it was clear from the outset that we’d never get close to making it perfect.

I have quoted before Morton C. Blackwell’s, “Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.” And that applies beautifully here. One of President Barack Obama’s supporters, former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle, also coined it in reading him: “Those who accomplish the most are those who don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good,” he said, continuing, “Barack is a pragmatist. In that sense, he has a larger vision but oftentimes knows that we can’t get there with one legislative effort. When these occasions arise, he is willing to accept progress, even marginal gain, as a step toward that vision.”[2]

At times, the work required in the resolution of a problem far exceeds the available resources and time (and consequently often money), and therefore it’s not practicable--money underpins both resources and time a lot of the time, but not always. Simply the cost (a combination of resources, time and money) may not be worth the perceived benefit that’s sought to be gained.

Irresolvable issues also surface in key relationships including familial relationships with a parent, a child, or a spouse. With the plethora of issues that need resolving in relationships, we’ll always find some we just can’t come to a landing on, simply.

So, what are the options?

Sometimes the best option is to just accept the fact.

Some things in life are simply irresolvable, and the trick is to move on and not continue to re-visit the awkward situation. It takes a certain level of maturity for all parties to accept this new status quo… gee, at times simply our acceptance versus their non-acceptance may actually provoke the situation, making it worse. We can’t leave that situation as it is; that one needs some sort of resolution to at least the remote satisfaction of both/all parties wherever possible.

At acceptance, moving on requires a decision of the will (a commitment)--then the practical outworking of the commitment. We need to agree with ourselves that we won’t re-visit the issue or get frustrated about it. This definitely involves discipline.

Acceptance is a key step toward maturity in life, and not the least of which regarding conflict. Of course, having awareness of the specific irresolvable i.e. that the situation is proving hard/impossible to resolve, and the situation’s affect on us and other parties, is a very crucial, basic step of this wisdom.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] First stanza of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Ballad of East and West” in Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908) A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. (1895).
[2] Source:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Around ‘n’ Around We Go

Overhearing a phone conversation or two is one of the ‘occupational hazards’ of working in an open plan office environment. I work in an area of business where there are many processes, systems, forms... officialdom in a word. Officialdom with a smile!

One phone conversation I couldn’t help overhearing was an interesting one. It involved an advisor who does a similar job to me. They were playing a game of ‘chase your tail’ with an antsy regulator and it was almost comical.

(Bureaucracy... it’s enough to send this particular Myers-Briggs ENFP crazy!)

I couldn’t help thinking that the advisor in question was either unaware of the run around they were getting, or they were exceedingly patient--it could even have been a combination of these two and other reasons. I was taken, however, with their approach.

I got to thinking, with some people we never really get anywhere; it’s as if the primary goal of life for some people is to make it tough for others. Are these people proving difficult for a reason? Have they been asked to make it hard? Or is there something occurring at a personal level that requires reconciliation?

But I also have to concede, bureaucracy has its purposes too. Without it we’d come crashing to disaster at some point not having foreseen potentially cataclysmic events, particularly related with protocol, security and ‘political correctness.’ (The true intent of PC is love and care for others; it just tends to get pedantic from time to time--and it always will as we inevitably bridge (at times) the legalistic tension.)

So, how do we fix it? We endure it. Perhaps the Serenity Prayer points us also to a method that would work. God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change... the courage to change the things I can... and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Around ‘n’ around we go... where we stop... nobody knows.

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

The Greatest Altruism...

We see people offer to help out and be kind to each other routinely in life, whether in the workplace, on the roads, at schools etc. It seems it’s no big deal and there certainly is very little that separates the Christian from the Christian non-believer in this respect.

Yet, is there a deeper issue at hand? Like, what is it that motivates each person? Is the good deed done simply to accrue some form of kudos or is it done for some other reason? (And, up front, sometimes I guess there doesn’t even need to be a reason.)

Altruism: unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others.[1]

The best sense of altruism is the one where there are definitely no strings attached, and where we do it simply for the glory of God, really!

This sense of true altruism is often painful and uncomfortable at first, requiring real faith, but afterwards we often get what we don’t expect--and it’s good. I love what Eugene Peterson has alluded to here:

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary--we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”

–Romans 5:3-5 (Msg).

Although in a way opportunities at altruism don’t reveal troubles per se (as mentioned above), they do reveal the same result from our faith. We’re filled to brimming with the anointing of the Holy Spirit as a result of our faith-filled actions.

The greatest altruism is done with no strings attached and simply for God’s pleasure. It’s particularly striking (as the above passage from Romans shows) when it comes through adversity... when we’d hardly want to give of ourselves or our resources for others’ gain.

Yet, it’s the most sensible thing to do in our hardships and misfortune, because it reduces any of the available pity we might otherwise be tempted to ‘inflict’ upon ourselves. An act of authentic altruism is hence, the perfect solution.

When we stand to hurt most in our generosity we also stand to be blessed most, but paradoxically, that is the furthest thing motivating our love. Our motives can be pure when we place ourselves genuinely on the backburner.

And we find the way of Jesus’ paradoxical love right in the midst of these moments. He relates (with us and to us) as he did in going to the cross--which is the greatest ever and the supremely ultimate act of altruism; the unsurpassable, single act of salvation.

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

Monday, April 20, 2009

Some Advantages of Introversion

“All talk, no action.” Know anyone like this? Chances are they’re an extrovert--and they can’t do anything about it apart from fight their natural inclination to bash their gums, and share everything that’s on their mind and heart with everyone in earshot. If you’re introverted chances are you find this sort of person either tiresome or enviable. Because you’re so different, you’ll tend to feel for either one of those two extremes.

It takes all sorts to live in and operate on this planet of ours. The world needs both introverts and extroverts to function properly--God certainly designed and made both. In very simple terms, and to illustrate the point, extroverts are good for marketing jobs, yet introverts make good technicians.

I have recently re-discovered a key advantage the introvert has over the extrovert. It’s related to results. The introvert is simply often more convincing in their ‘achieved work’ than the extrovert.

We see here that showing people the results of our work as opposed to simply talking about them (before fruition) will mean the receiver of the information will react differently. The concept and theory of things always intuits a different response to the thing in reality.

There are some people, and introverts are quite adept at this, that have a low tolerance for ‘all talk only’ people, for which extroverts are famous.

The results of the thing that is done are salient, visible and most of all, tangible. What you see is what you get. Some people, again mostly introverts, prefer not to deal in lots of visionary intangibles, so if we’re extroverted, we should learn to put things in concrete ways for these very situations.

Other advantages of the introverted[1] could be that they:

10) Work well with others, especially in one-to-one relationships
9) Maintain long-term friendships easier
8) Are flexible
7) Are independent
6) Have a strong ability to concentrate
5) Are self-reflective
4) Are responsible
3) Can be creative, out-of-the-box thinkers
2) Have analytical skills that integrate complexity better
1) Are studious and smart

This is not to say extroverts don’t have strong features of those raised above; many do. The point relates to preference and generally no one is fully at one extreme or other on the introversion-extroversion continuum. And some, too, are borderline--revealing a slight extraversion preference.

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

[1] Ho, L. (2005, September, 23). Top 10 Advantages of Introvert. Retrieved 20 April 2009, from

Mignon McLaughlin Quotes of Note (Part 2 of 2)

In part one of this series I provided commentary on some of the great many things that this American female journalist (1913-1983) said. Here are some more with my commentary:

“Many are saved from sin by being so inept at it.”

Is this a comment on how pure some people are or is it about how incompetent some people are? Either way it’s quite an incredulous statement that many could or would dispute the veracity of. Nevertheless, it’s intriguing and thought-provoking.

“No matter how brilliantly an idea is stated, we will not really be moved unless we have already half thought of it ourselves.”

This is a great humbling truth. We have to be convinced of things ourselves before they get any airplay otherwise. Cognisance of this is helpful, however, so as team players we might remind ourselves every now and then, particularly at the right time--to be open-minded to the submission of our stubbornness.

“Society honors its living conformists and its dead troublemakers.”

This is bad news for those who wish for fame in this life through their infamy. If only we’d recognise the truth to the former part of the statement more. Living in conformity is blessed, yet we struggle with the simplicity of this in our practical living much of the time.

“There are a handful of people whom money won't spoil, and we all count ourselves among them.”

Money spoils everyone potentially. How many times do we hear people say, ‘Oh, for the Lotto life,’ and we think it could be to their ruination. It’s true, a lot of money ruins people in a surprising number of situations.

We can fool ourselves, can’t we? Good friends, however, provide us much needed balance in their advice, if we’re good enough to listen. “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” –Proverbs 27:5-6 (TNIV).

“We all become great explorers during our first few days in a new city, or a new love affair.”

This is probably aimed at those deciding on infidelity... a foolish choice anytime.
The overall point is we stop exploring. Why not continue the exploration in marriage, in life? This is the hard thing, isn’t it? Over the longer term we wane, our energy tends to dissipate. We rarely see the lack of work ethic in our marriages, or in life, as a problem. And we rarely do anything about it.

But, each day can be as fresh as the first, but it depends on our approach and focus.

“What you can't get out of, get into wholeheartedly.”

This is a classic trick of awareness first, and then secondly of the will of the mind. We exercise our choice when we choose to live this way. And our enthusiasm in these trying circumstances is often infectious and a cause for inspiration to others.

“We would all like a reputation for generosity and we'd all like to buy it cheap.”

This is a chief paradox. The truth is stinginess is characteristic to our human nature. We only realise it when we occasionally surprise ourselves by going against what we’d normally do, when we give in true generosity i.e. on instinct, without much thought. Generosity, like a good many things, can become a habit.

“What you have become is the price you paid to get what you used to want.”

It’s funny how quickly our needs change. We look back to two months ago and what do we see? Often things we priced too highly at the time. 20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. We also define ourselves by what we want and don’t want, and the price we’re prepared to pay for both.

“When suffering comes, we yearn for some sign from God, forgetting we have just had one.”

This is a great bolt of truth right here. The main thing with suffering is we’re put in direct contact and channel with God--he’s there in the midst of it. Suffering is often a consequence of ours or others’ lack of obedience to God’s holy code i.e. sin. Even when it isn’t (depending on our perception), there’s no surer sign of God’s presence (and role) than in suffering.

“Youth is not enough. And love is not enough. And success is not enough. And, if we could achieve it, enough would not be enough.”

Proverbs 30:15b-16 (NIV) says,

“There are three things that are never satisfied, four that never say, ‘Enough!’: the grave, the barren womb, land, which is never satisfied with water, and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’”
I used to rationalise my addictive personality and behaviour cheekily by saying, ‘Too much is never enough,’ and the sad thing is our Western lives are defined by a lack or loss of self-control by and large.

Mignon McLaughlin

Mignon McLaughlin was a secular figure of note in the 20th Century. I’m glad to be edified spiritually by her wisdom; the wisdom of the Ages.

Of course, none of it is original to McLaughlin herself. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

“It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but only retire from sight and afterwards return again.”

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

Under the Cover of Darkness

By stealth the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber runs missions that we’d hardly ever know existed, bar things like an inquisitive Wikipedia search. Stealth is also the mission of some, both toward good and evil ends.

One thing that’s afforded the godly person is the ability to grow the way of stealth. So long as the mission is a trustworthy one, why would it matter if we achieved some things by virtue of ‘the quiet way’?

Wisdom is shrouded in stealth. One cannot be truly wise without it. We get the Christian walk very wrong when we think it’s all honesty and no discernment. It’s both, simultaneously.

In a paraphrase of Jesus’ words, he says,
“You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove”
–Matthew 10:16 (Msg).

And this is the balance that at all times is required. One cannot be blessed in stealthiness unless there’s a genuine righteousness of intent about it; it is therefore absolutely conditional on a right relationship with God and people, and by virtue of that, a regular commitment to repentance, joy, and all other Christian fruit of the Spirit. Without this ‘defence,’ the Christian operating on stealth runs some very dangerous risks, both personally and with others, including hypocrisy. We are powerless in our strength--which is almost a pathetically regular cited cliché in Christian circles--but it’s nonetheless true.

In stealth we resist provoking ant’s nests. We must be both shrewd and guileless.[1] Being both pure and prudent is no easy task and it requires and necessitates a strong, functional relationship with God. We get it totally wrong otherwise. The mix of both these attributes is probably one of the best ways of viewing true biblically-based wisdom; it has both in equal measure, and then some others, like diligence.

And it’s a necessity that a good part of the Christian mission is stated in these terms, for we fail otherwise in our objectives in bringing truth and spiritual light to those lives in need (including our own), in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord.

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

[1] Craig S. Keener, Matthew – The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997), p. 207.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


It appears to me the key difference between those who truly succeed in life and the also-rans is the personal ability to transcend oneself, and all that might come against the self--and this can only be done in, with, and through, God. True success is hence contingent on our relationship with God.

Let me illustrate.

Most people have no problem living i.e. eating, sleeping and breathing. They do so, generally, in quite typical fashion as all have done in centuries past. The difference between the normal life and the transcendent life, however, is marked.

The normal person in our rather extravagant society lives in a way that physically and mentally (and probably also emotionally and spiritually) degrades their lives gradually, though inevitably, over the lifespan. They put on weight, their muscles atrophy, they lose their mental sharpness, and generally their overall capacities diminish. Death is already in progress.

But, there is another way. There is a fountain of wisdom and youth in transcending ourselves.

“There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age”
–Sophia Loren.

Everyone it seems--at various levels--wants to stay young and prolong life. Funny isn’t it that at the same time we also often want to escape life and know intuitively that life is hard and annoying a lot of the time. Escaping life, however, is not what I believe Sophia Loren is talking about. It’s the opposite; it’s embracing life. It’s meeting life head-on.

It’s not until we learn that we must actively kick against the pricks of the prevailing worldly domain that we truly understand our default human dilemma. We’re trapped in an invisible vision that most people can never see. It takes faith to see it--yet, most people are bone lazy to things of faith. And they miss so genuinely much. And to see is but one thing; we must then have the courage to go on to transcending ourselves.

We are destined for hell unless we reach for heaven, true heaven, which is heaven right now. And ‘heaven right now’ is deep and indwelt within our own minds, hearts, souls and spirits. It is the ability to allow God to penetrate and guide us in transcending our normal, pitiable selves.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you” –Isaiah 60:1 (NIV). This Glory is as fresh this minute as ever before... it’s yours... explore.

“Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins [of living death]; Christ will show you the light!” –Ephesians 5:14 (Msg). [Portion added.]

Arise, sleeper, from your slumber. Seek God, tap into him, and transcend your normal, pitiable self. It can be done now, even now!

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

Post Script: Abraham Maslow revealed,
“Human history is a record of the ways in which human nature has been sold short. The highest possibilities of human nature have practically always been underrated. Even when ‘good specimens,’ the saints and sages and great leaders of history have been available for study, the temptation too often has been to consider them not human but supernaturally endowed…. If we want to know the possibilities for spiritual growth, value growth, or moral development in human beings, then I maintain that we can learn most by studying our most moral, ethical, or saintly people.”[1]

tran·scend (defined from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Etymology: Middle English, from Latin transcendere to climb across, transcend, from trans- + scandere to climb — more at scan

Date: 14th century

transitive verb 1 a: to rise above or go beyond the limits of b: to triumph over the negative or restrictive aspects of : overcome c: to be prior to, beyond, and above (the universe or material existence)2: to outstrip or outdo in some attribute, quality, or powerintransitive verb: to rise above or extend notably beyond ordinary limits

synonyms see exceed

Three Things We All Need, in Recession... Anytime

“Three things go up in recessions: church attendance, bar attendance, and movie attendance. Why those three things? They represent the three things people are looking for: meaning, connection, and relief”
–Rick Warren.

And all three we can actually find in God.


People apparently derive meaning from going to church. Those of us converted know the reasons why. For the newcomer or the person coming back into the fold, church is different (and needs to be) from almost any other place or activity a human being can visit or do.

I recall re-entering the church years ago, seeking and finding. Finding wasn’t a function of achieving joy and happiness; it was a need, a desperate and urgent need. Peace and relief were what I was seeking--not to worship the Most High, or feel the ecstatic feeling of the anointing of the Holy Spirit--that came later.


People apparently go to pubs to become connected. I always found nightclubs to be very seedy places--not much ‘connection’ was to be found in these places. Sure, to be cheered by an inebriated soul could provide a few laughs and some bonding, but it doesn’t really cut it.

How could we go past the connection we can have with God? Many don’t even know this is possible, and if you’re reading this message for the first time... it is not only possible, it can happen any time you like. God is within you. God is within each and every one of us. And he never leaves.

This is a connection most of us never even notice or make even the slightest time for.

God waits patiently for us. Your move...


People apparently go to the movies for relief--the relief of a few hours denial if that fits. Sure, going to the movies is not always about denial; there are times when we need authentic relief and cinemas provide a great medium for this.

But too much relief-seeking in escapism points us to a much deeper and insidious problem.

The best source of relief, as indicated above, is God. The best form of relief is seeking his authentic, healing presence. God’s not burdensome; on the contrary, he relieves us genuinely without us needing to escape.

He relieves us and we don’t need to deny our need anymore. We achieve both things, but only through him who loves us so much that he sacrificed his own Son--for you, for me.

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