Sunday, May 31, 2009

What Clings Close: Our Character

Closer than any skill, profession or knowledge we acquire or undertake is the character that reveals our intrinsic attitude towards all things.

And in the same way, what God brings forth in us via our innate temperaments, we cannot change, but we can tweak the character, because it is morally situated.

Character can be determined via the following schema:

“As water (like a mirror) reflects the face: so…

- A person’s heart reflects the person” (NIV).

- One’s life reflects the heart” / others reflect your heart back to you” (TNIV).

- The heart of a man to a man” (Murphy).

- One human heart reflects another” (NRSV). –Proverbs 27:19.

All of these communicate a common truth; we get what we give. People mirror back to us what we’ve shown them. What we show people, by the manifestation of our behaviour, we are. It’s what we think about. It’s what drives us. It’s how we react. It’s something we can’t get away from; even though there are times we wish we could.

Our character sticks as close as anything and is only a little more removed than our temperament--what ‘nature’ gave us. Character is at least a little more ‘nurture’ related; self-nurture at that.

Given that people can at times know us even better than we can know ourselves (for better or for worse), there is ideal impetus to want to improve morally, for moral development is character development.

This is to live the examined life.

For, also, how are we to truly know others if we don’t truly know ourselves?

And knowing ourselves intelligently i.e. intrapersonal intelligence, is certainly a key to all other forms of relational intelligence. The better we know ourselves and the more ruthless we are in jettisoning moral failures, the tidier and more robust and fruitful our characters can be. This is a worthy goal in any life.

For we deceive ourselves if we think we can create and maintain a relational fa├žade. We cannot. People are intelligent in these ways and they’ll find out about us (the true “us”) sooner or later.

Do we care?

It seems the need for character development picks itself in the lives of leaders, politicians, pastors, teachers, police and the list goes on.

No matter whom we are, if we wish to live a good, enjoyable, satisfying life, character development is a worthy goal, worth all the effort to achieve.

Like so many improvement strategies, character development at its base--its central core--can only really be about two things:

1. Achieving an acute awareness of what stays and what must go; and,

2. Being courageous enough to commit to a plan of action to see it through.

Character sticks to us as good as chewing gum in hair. Our reputations are evidence of this.

Once we understand this and determine that it’s important what other people think of us, we’re motivated to address our deficiencies. It’s not until we start, however, that we see with incredulity the workload ahead. It’s the start of a burgeoning lifelong journey.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step. Everyone wins when we work on “us,” notwithstanding ourselves. What clings close can be both hardy and attractive.

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

The “Bravo Zulu” File – For a Job “Well Done”

One of the real treats in working at a large Port is the diversity of the vocational environment. The Harbour Master not only controls shipping in and out of the port, he’s also an inspiration behind sea terms. This is one I learned recently:

“Bravo Zulu is a naval signal, conveyed by flaghoist or voice radio, meaning ‘Well Done’... It can be combined with the “negative” signal, spoken or written NEGAT, to say ‘NEGAT Bravo Zulu,’ or ‘not well done.’”[1]
Now, here’s the rub. I heard Western Australian Baptist Ministries director, Ps. Mark Wilson, mention a few years ago that he kept an ‘encouragement file’ for all those times in his ministry when he felt discouraged--he could simply delve in there and be reminded pretty quickly of the times he had been appreciated. It was a confidence boost when he struggled for hope, as we all tend to do from time to time.

He encouraged everyone there that day to employ a similar thing for those times when we might need a boost. Even the award-winning Port at which I work gets a lot of complaints; employees can often become disheartened. The Harbour Master’s area has a “Bravo Zulu” file to balance the ledger.

Since Ps. Wilson’s talk, I’ve keep my own encouragement file within my MS Outlook at the office, which I now call the “Bravo Zulu” file. Being one to FAD[2] my email, they’re quickly filed in the right area, as recognition is made that this email, particularly, is special in nature. I’ll also often send a prayer of thanks for them in that moment.

I was going through my “Bravo Zulu” file during some spare time recently and I discovered that now I have over one hundred encouraging messages of feedback and thanks in there. That’s overwhelming.

In fact, this is now so overwhelming to me that it’s unlikely I’ll even need to go into it when required; just the thought that it exists will often be enough.

But it also beckons the thought... if I have this file, why would I not go through it every now and then and recharge the praise batteries; especially regarding both thanks to the people who’ve brought joy to my life, and for the joy and assistance I’ve brought to others’ lives.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] “Bravo Zulu.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopaedia. Retrieved 29 May 2009.
[2] “FAD” stands for instantly File, Act on, or Delete emails as they come in.

Hydrofluoric Acid (HF) Burns

On November 12, 1994, a chemist from Mosman Park, Perth, died as a result of his injuries after he spilt approximately 100ml of 70% HF was onto one of his legs.[1] This fatal incident has since been used to highlight the potent risks inherent in the use of this chemical.[2]

At a former employ, and during my formal safety and health education, I was fortunate to experience the knowledge of skilled chemical engineers; I worked for a large-scale fertiliser and chemical manufacturer and also had a key role in the emergency response team dealing with chemical spills and releases, including acids, sodium cyanide, chlorine, ammonia etc.

In one of the particular plants I was based superphosphate was made, with its various ingredients, for instance sulphuric acid and fluorosilicic acid; and so the risk of HF exposure was ever-present, albeit usually in small concentrations. Nevertheless there was always calcium gluconate gel on hand to treat burns.

“On the skin hydrofluoric acid produces an effect which varies from mild erythema[3] to a severe burn, depending on the concentration and length of exposure. The burn is characterized by an intense throbbing pain which may be delayed several hours… progressive destruction of all tissues continues.”[4]
HF, like a great many dangerous chemicals, must be treated with the highest respect and safety standards. There are often no second chances given if and when incidents do occur.

This is one of the nastiest chemicals, as an acid, known to humankind and it reminds us that whilst we generally live in a safe, controlled world, hazards are out there, and they can impact on our lives dramatically. Stay safe. Stay alive.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Monash University, Occupational Health and Safety Hazard Alert - Recent Hydrofluoric Acid Fatality in Perth. Retrieved 21 May 2009. Available:
[2] La Trobe University, Hazard Alert - Hydrofluoric Acid. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
[3] “Erythema.” The Free Dictionary. Erythema means “Redness of the skin caused by dilatation and congestion of the capillaries, often a sign of inflammation or infection.” Retrieved 21 May 2009.
[4] H.A. Waldron, Lecture Notes on Occupational Medicine, (Oxford, London: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1976, 1985), p. 100.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Dirt on Wealth & Health

Driving down the coast recently, my wife and I marveled at the human-made landscape east of the ocean. Two and three storey houses in abundance revealed a medley of colours, styles and features. It quickly made us feel quite poor by comparison, but less stressed also (for our simple life). There sure is no shortage of money in this world!

I got to thinking about money. No matter who we are we can never quite get enough money, can we? What with the bills to pay, things to buy to make life a little more comfortable, not to mention to be able to eat and provide for our other health needs.

Yet money is so obvious and visible, whilst the things that are really important in life, like our health, don’t feature as much. This is where the following truth comes in:

“The poorest man would not part with health for money, but the richest would gladly part with all their money for health” –Charles Caleb Colton.

The truth is the money of the filthy rich doesn’t buy them much. Sure, they might have all the possessions that the vain would envy, but that won’t help them in bind; especially a bind beyond monetary means. Money cannot fix cancer or motor neurone disease.

So, given the opportunities to win lotteries or not, why would we bother? Is it not worth giving up before we start? The problem with lotteries is what they do to our thinking. We start to focus on what life would be life, ‘if only…’

I find that a difficult outlook to contend with. It can only breed dissatisfaction and a crushing discontent when week after week we miss out. We tend to live for the future day when we’ll be ‘loaded.’ In the extreme, this is a farce of a life.

“The proper amount of wealth is that which neither descends to poverty nor is far distant from it” –Seneca, On Tranquility.

“That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest” –Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 11th March 1856.

Let’s get life in perspective. Our health counts for loads more than money in the eternal scheme of things.

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

Square Peg in a Round Hole?

I was at an industry breakfast seminar recently when next to me sat a lady in her late 40s. She was the principal of an injury management and rehabilitation consultancy and she was also finalising her PhD dissertation on the subject of psycho-social factors involved in rehabilitating injured and ill workers, getting them back into the workplace. It had been eight years in the making, and counting!

She mentioned the ‘square peg in a round hole’ phenomenon and I was intrigued. Only a few days beforehand I was given cause to reflect over the application of this phenomenon regarding the fit (or lack thereof) of certain personalities and leadership styles in the context of organisations.

I also learned about the Human Synergistics organisational culture assessment tool only recently. This is a masterful methodology explaining how good culture and leadership produce good, healthy outcomes for organisations.

The unfortunate thing for many companies, organisations and even families, however, is there is so much grief caused by people who are ‘square pegs’ trying to fit into round holes.

And the Human Synergistics ‘Circumplex’ is the ideal way to describe why people often don’t fit. It assesses people, teams and organisations around either passive/defensive, aggressive/defensive, or constructive styles.

It would come as no surprise for most of us to learn that people exhibiting the two defensive styles produced the least ‘fitting’ responses or outcomes.

Conversely, it’s obvious that the attributes of the constructive style i.e. people with achievement, self-actualising, humanistic-encouraging, and affiliative foci have the best chances of being ‘rounded’ enough to fit, whenever and wherever.

And whether we’re trying to fit into a new team or recovering from injury, we can only hope to advance our cause and make it easiest for others if we display more of the constructive, positive styles. This way we take control in managing our lives and we cooperate too with those charged with helping toward the same mandate.
It pays to neither be submissive or aggressive, but assertive, catering simultaneously for both our own individual needs and the needs of others.

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

Leadership is Applied High-mindedness

There’s one thing we need if we wish to succeed in the life of leadership; this is something which I’m sure a lot of leaders simply either aren’t aware of, or refuse to give way to... it’s the humble skill of remaining high-minded for the benefit of others and the goal as a whole.

I say ‘remaining’ high-minded because it’s not until we realise our own biases get in the way--in the moment--of our people’s creativity and enthusiasm and their expression of same, that we start to see that seeing things from others’ viewpoints is the best way to help ourselves. High-mindedness is the only consistent way to this end.

We see here that we can quite easily lead people to nowhere good if we have low and transitory goals regarding our own behaviour and manifest ‘restraining’ feedback, not remaining forever watchful of ourselves--checking ourselves continually against the standard of high-mindedness, for which we seek for each of our people, and the team as a whole.

(After all, is leadership not about passing the baton, growing those junior to succeed us in our present roles? We hence want to role model high-mindedness and then also be on the lookout for evidence of it occurring in others, so we can commend such behaviour.)

The leader’s best demeanour is to be etched with a sense of the regal, ‘a noble reserve of bearing which cannot be mistaken,’[1] and nothing less than an appreciable helping of grace.

Instead of being ‘one of the boys or girls,’ we must rise above the typical i.e. the norm, the default drive, and settle only for cruising the moral and intellectual stratosphere, where regality and grace reside.

And it’s true to say this is a learned habit. Both qualities--the moral and the intellectual--require tendering to maximise our capacities as leaders, but interestingly both are rooted deeply in the moral; for leadership, like love, wisdom, truth and faith, is a morally-tangible ‘soft’ skill not learned merely via the mind; the heart must be engaged fully also. (And a lot of leadership gurus miss that point.)

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

[1] A.W. Tozer, “A Plea for Christian Dignity,” in Lyle Dorsett, A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A.W. Tozer (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 2008), p. 184. This article in the Alliance Weekly was originally published on March 30, 1946.

Who said, “SEX” – When All’s Quiet, People are Probably Listening

It was only pointed out to me afresh recently that the subject of “sex” always brings quiet conscientious attention in a crowded church auditorium. To think such apparently spiritual people might be thinking of such apparently carnal things...

But we’re all the same really. None of us are too far from sex. It’s a distinct item of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual interest. For innate reasons, sex sells, both in the healthy and unhealthy realms.

And this principle holds for a great many other topics none of us can escape from.

What about rejection. We’ve all been rejected, and the sting of rejection we know, lasts. One thing we can’t escape is the temptation to reject those who’ve rejected us, or even reject those who attempt to love us (if we’ve become so accustomed to rejection and are scared of loving back for fear of rejection). At the very least, we find it difficult to interact with those who we’ve associated with rejection.

Let’s try another one we can’t escape from... quieted children.

All parents know that when things go quiet with the kids they’re generally up to something... often this is not good. Kids, like us, learn early to keep quiet if their actions might be frowned upon. But all through this situation, the child’s attention is piqued, stirred to what stimuli might be going on around them; their radar or antennae are out.

The lesson in all of these is this. When things are being discussed that are of distinct i.e. not transitory, interest, the room goes quiet--the antennae is out to catch every last drop of precious information.

Or in the cyberspace world those most affected by the particular things of discussion are least likely to speak up; their focus is on acute self-reflection--a very introverted action. And this is required to extract the meaningfulness out of what’s experienced. It’s absolutely rational and natural.

No wonder the room goes quiet when sex is mentioned. At least part of the interest shown in every single person is from the very personal centre of the private world; whether it’s performance-related, inadequacy, lack of satisfaction, desire, enhancement and an entire realm of other things which are possibly behind the gaining of interest.

When things go quiet what we’re saying is probably (though not always) being magnified in the minds and hearts of those listening.

We must ensure we don’t waste the opportunity to bring everything out for the people interested, and this is done in developing a hyper-acute sense of behavioural feedback awareness, if that’s possible. For, it is almost impossible via cyberspace.

In a church auditorium, however, we have a captive audience with regard to the above.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Acknowledgement: to Ps. Mark Edwards for his insightful thought-starter at:

What Goes Wrong Usually Does So on the Wettest Days

Driving on a rainy day recently, noticing and dodging debris strewn over the roadway as I went, there was the poor old truck driver a kilometre ahead re-fixing his load of scrap metal. I thought two things: pity on the truck driver and thankfulness it wasn’t me.

Yet, I too and you, have had these times and events happen just like this.

Have you ever noticed this phenomenon? Things go badly for the unprepared on the foulest days, weather-wise. A lot of people attribute this to the so-called Murphy’s Law which I find in some ways absurd, mainly because it’s merely part of the broader scope of God’s universal law at play, and a part that often we find narcissistically ironic.

Murphy’s Law is meaningful to us from the viewpoint of the personal significance we attach to the event. Yet, these things can happen to anyone, anytime. God is no respecter of persons--in that he favours not one over another--with regard to the laws of life, be we princes or paupers.

Good things and not-so-good things happen to everyone. Why should we isolate the not-so-good things and attribute it to a fanciful theory of bad luck. Perhaps it’s conversational? For, we’re so apt at making allowance for things, even ridiculous allowance.

So, we are best to see that when these things happen, it’s not Murphy’s Law exacting revenge on poor old me, but it’s a sign that we could have prepared and anticipated more and been more diligent.

Life’s chock full of lessons if we’re adherent enough to listen and take heed.

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

Friday, May 29, 2009

“The Climb” – Life, the Present, Mountains, Real Joy... Faith!

Songs, like poetry, are often meaningful, yet so many are difficult to fathom. The Climb by Miley Cyrus, is not so difficult to fathom, and is blessed in the beauty of its simplistic yet powerful life message.

Mountains are analogous for all sorts of theological, philosophical and practical lessons. Jesus himself uses the imagery of mountains more than once as portrayed in the gospels. In The Climb, the mountain is a life challenge or task or relationship that stands before us.

The temptation we have on occasion in life is we seek the next mountain without truly enjoying the present one.

Yet, the best of life is about the present climb, not the next one, or the one after; though there’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking forward to things--I mean, there’s the foundation of hope, right there!

Staying focused, however, on the present mountain means there’s more energy and focus available to climb even other mountains simultaneously, concurrently. This is to the rising of our capacity to meet our life call, because life is often not linear--we are at times required to do several things at the same time; how are we meant to do them all, and do them well? We enjoy them--each climb--that’s how.

Meeting our many various life calls--be they family, work or other--consistently and well is often difficult but enjoying each climb is the key.

Remember the scene in Bruce Almighty (2003) where Bruce (Jim Carrey) cannot keep up with the prayer requests, as his work as God (between 51st and Main!) starts to really increase? We feel this work pressure at times too. In trusting God to be entirely faithful in giving us extra energy, capacity and enthusiasm, so as to stretch to meet demands, we also reap the present.

And it’s only when we’re looking too far ahead at the next climbs that we lose sight of the present moment and the possible joy to be captured, right now. It’s not about how fast we get there; and it’s certainly not about what’s on the other side. It’s the climb itself that’s the key to happiness and success, and positive, inspired interactions with people.

And the BEST thing about all of this ‘present awareness’ propaganda is the grown experience of it. The more we do, the longer we train ourselves into it, appreciating the minutes and seconds that are present with us, the more God pours in! This is just another way he fills us to brimming (and over) in his abundance.

For us, the climb makes life an inspiration not a loathed chore which robs us of our joy. Of course, there’re also times when we’ll struggle for joy whatever we do; a humble acceptance of the plain facts in these situations is all we hope to achieve. As they say, ‘such is life.’

Don’t underestimate the power of the message in this song, The Climb. Listen and take on board its pungent yet soothing truth. Keep the faith.

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

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Diverting Wisdom… for Patience

Animated classics have been a favourite motion picture genre for me, well, since Shrek (2001) at least. The most recent Monsters vs Aliens (2009) was as wonderfully and creatively constructed as all of them, though the Ice Age series and Monsters Inc (2001) are now personal favourites. But Flushed Away (2006) featured a rather ‘amusing’ scene that I find ties very well with the real wisdom of patience.

At one point when Roddy St. James, the high-society mouse, is trapped with his female friend (Rita) by Toad, he gains the momentary favour of Toad when Toad learns Roddy’s from “up top.” Being rather a snob himself, Toad offers Roddy a look at ‘his private collection’ of “up top” souvenirs.

Toad mentions Roddy might find it ‘diverting,’ alluding to it being a diversion to the adversarial situation the two had found themselves in. Unfortunately, however, Roddy’s lack of sensitivity and brash snootiness puts paid to the favour of ‘diversion’ by saying that it is ‘amusing’ as opposed to ‘diverting’… Toad is incensed.

Not a wise move it seems! But being diverted is a trick of wisdom that anyone can take advantage of--wisdom around the impatience it seems we all suffer from.

Like when we’re caught in traffic. Rather than get agitated and upset, we could choose to divert our focus and thinking. The Shaman warriors of Ancient Mexico have a saying that speaks to their ability to do just that. “When faced with odds that cannot be dealt with, warriors retreat for a moment. They let their minds meander. They occupy their time with something else. Anything will do.”[1] It is their 5th principle of stalking, but to us it might prove diverting enough so we’re not given to worry, concern or delay.

Patience is something that we seem to struggle more and more with in this ‘instant’ day and age. Everything it seems is available instantly and we do not ordinarily have to wait.

But the principle of patience is the only suitable approach in dealing with a universal law; one that’s steeped in all systems of life. One that requires us to be patient. If only we can become better at diverting our attention whilst we need to wait, then we can utilise the time and our energy a lot better, and not become so given to impatience.

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

[1] Carlos Castaneda, The Wheel of Time: The Shamans of Ancient Mexico, Their Thoughts about Life, Death and the Universe (Los Angeles, California: LA Eidolona Press, 1998), p. 210.

Google Australia - a High Trust Team Case Study

The transparency of trust and a commitment to live its values sets Google Australia high above its contemporaries, says Kath Walters of BRW, and these underpin revolutionary practice and results.

Any company employee, for instance, can nominate an idea for development (“not just engineers”) and if it’s successful they can devote twenty percent of their time to it. Considering that Google allows employees unprecedented levels of access to its intellectual property, finances and strategy it hardly seems there’s a barrier at all for good ideas, and this seemingly limits no one. Hence motivation flourishes!

Google have worked out that money has less to do with employee satisfaction than most seem to believe. Whilst fairness is seen as the key to financial reward for employees, they’re more motivated by being kept “informed and appreciated.”

The number of ‘peer bonuses’ paid are non-capped and this is a good example that it’s more than money that motivates most staff. The emphasis is on recognition of fellow employee contribution rather than the boss dictating who’s to be recognised.

Casual discussions are the seed beds of much of Google’s creative production and staff are encouraged to work informally and how they like. And the traditional divide between management and workers seems almost non-existent with employees able to quiz executives at will every Friday.

The test of any great company is how it rides out difficult change. With the close of its Melbourne office, the transparency policy was put to the test, but General Manager Karim Temsamani said it was clear and timely communication that was the key. You can feel a real commitment to communicating truth in this action, as it boldly did what needed doing. Action that so often undermines trust actually appeared to advance it. Authenticity, not smoke and mirrors, is the key.

What strikes me about this company is it caters beautifully for what Gen Y requires, truly valuing and trusting its employees, and in that it satisfies all age groups and is hence one of the most sought-after companies to work for...

After all, 19,475 job applications in the past year for a company of only 312 employees can’t be wrong!

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Source Article: Kath Walters, “Search and employ: Google’s working conditions are legendary” in BRW - Great Places to Work issue, Volume 31, Number 17 April 30 - June 3, 2009, p. 30-35.

A Dirty Day & the Dark Night

Some days are simply dirty. We get out of bed though we want to climb back in. We put on our working clothes but we hardly want to. We want, on some levels, to do the things we’ve planned, but we can’t wrest from our minds the urge to want to play it safe and divert from them.

Inexplicably we move, but slowly, awkwardly, and we don’t know how. No matter how, or what we try, it won’t be fixed; not today.

And we hope against hope, if we’re aware, that this scourge, this film, will be lifted tomorrow, even today. We frighten ourselves in a moment as we gaze at the vast possibilities this could last. Not good.

There’s an inevitability about it--this state we’re experiencing. Something has us, and this, well… it’s just beyond our will.

And it’s not about hope. Hope doesn’t even come into it. It’s a base-level drive that’s entered nihilism. Our energy is occluded. We hardly thought it possible--it’s taken over our sense of faith and meaning. But, only, it seems, for a day… or two.

And we pray, ‘Please, Lord, release me from this.’

Scary isn’t it, that we can face such inexplicable events of heart and spirit--the soul in turmoil; the dirty day gives way to a dark night of the soul... indeed!

“For the spiritual and the sensual desires are put to sleep and mortified, so that they can experience (lit. taste) nothing, either Divine or human; the affections of the soul are oppressed and constrained, so that they can neither move nor find support in anything; the imagination is bound and can make no useful reflection; the memory is gone; the understanding is in darkness, unable to understand anything; and hence the will likewise is arid and constrained and all the faculties are void and useless; and in addition to all this a thick and heavy cloud is upon the soul, keeping it in affliction, and, as it were, far away from God. It is in this kind of ‘darkness’ that the soul says here it travelled ’securely.’”[1]

“Therefore, O spiritual soul, when thou seest thy desire obscured, thy affections arid and constrained, and thy faculties bereft of their capacity for any interior exercise, be not afflicted by this, but rather consider it a great happiness, since God is freeing thee from thyself and taking the matter from thy hands.”[2]

In the ‘dirty day’s experience’ of the dark night the soul there is at least safety. Like the Footprints poem we’re freed from ourselves and God alone has us within his firm but gentle grasp.

What a God we have that we’re safest in our darkest hour with no strength, but his, to contend.

So, know, if you may be there... ‘In darkness and secure.’ Trust in it.

Yesterday... a dirty day. Today is new.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
This article was inspired, in part, by U2’s song, Dirty Day.
[1] St. John of the Cross, “Explains how, though in darkness, the soul walks securely” in Dark Night of the Soul (Book II, Chapter XVI). Retrieved 27 May 2009.
[2] St. John of the Cross, Ibid.

Why We’re Free

What is it that sets Christians up in freedom from this world and from the clutches of spiritual condemnation for their sin? I found myself yet again arriving at the answer to this question only recently. It was as fresh as the very first time and I find that truly remarkable.

At my wedding two years ago one of the two songs played by the worship team there was a song called, Jesus, All for Jesus. This Robin Mark song has so few lyrics it could be described as a chant.

The thing that grabbed me as fresh as a picked daisy was the line, “For it’s only in Your will that I am free,” and this for three solid reasons (at least).

Firstly, it was in Jesus’ will to go to the Cross and suffer all sorts of indignities and even death--on my personal behalf--almost two thousand years before I was born. It is a theological fact that he went there by virtue of his very own will, for he had many opportunities to escape or be released.

But, he cooperated with the will of the Father, and with the will of humanity back then (and with the eternal will of humanity at that).[1] We know when we receive him that sense of God’s grace for Jesus’ life, so we can at once identify with Cross-guilt, although instead of shame, it is miraculous grace we receive--God’s gift of spiritual salvation.

Secondly, it was in Jesus’ will to break-in to my life at the distinct, pre-defined, destined point he did. The person of Jesus Christ stooped down from the heavens through the omnipresent Holy Spirit, at that time, and brought me at once to freedom from myself. How often this occurs in depths of personal pain is astounding. He arrives just in time for us. He breaks-in by invitation only yet also compellingly.

And freedom from self is not something ever to be taken lightly, ever. It’s the paradoxical key to real life itself.

Furthermore, and thirdly, he does it each day. He breaks-in afresh, showering me with insight on situations, both revelation of my own wrongs and anointing encouragement when I do right.

His Spirit is in constant dialogue with me if I’m choosing to listen consistently, seeking him in prayer and via his Word. He breaks-in, but in this way only as one invited. And we invite him by seeking him (see Matthew 7:7-8, Luke 13:25 and Revelation 3:20).

Jesus’ will for my salvation (and yours) is eternal; both an unchangeable historical fact and an ever-present reality, right now--and everything in between.

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

[1] This is irrefutable for both the Christian and non-Christian, both from the views of sin and salvation. We all share the guilt of sending Jesus to the cross (believer’s view), and if we don’t (the unbeliever’s view) we don’t care, so we send him there with ‘our blessing.’ Of course, this is unpacked in many ways in volumes of theology. The Cross is the masterstroke of an awesome, loving Creator.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Prayers of Intercession

I can admit that I’m not much of an intercessor--it’s just not a gift or a passion I’ve been blessed with; that is not to say that I don’t do it. But only a little while back I was caused to reflect and I was stunned as to how full of drama life really is--at any given time.

At the time I had a brother working overseas and I was concerned for his safety; close friends had their daughter in ‘routine’ surgery; a teenaged niece was training away from home; a work colleague’s infant granddaughter required surgery on a failing kidney; a contractor lost his brother and was undergoing huge grief; and, I felt burdened for a mentally-challenged friend.

Added to that were the immediate family burdens over that day’s travel arrangements and each family member’s emotional stability.

We see in these the burdened heart, not in worry or concern over what might go wrong, but a heart intent on God and the seeking of his blessing and his face; his anointing over all.

Intercession for me is also about discerning the indiscernible i.e. seeing situations and circumstances as they ordinarily don’t appear. There’s both the spiritual and the mystical about it.

I recall a friend in seminary being all of a sudden overcome, empowered by the Holy Spirit to pray earnestly--even in the ‘comfort’ of lectures--noting her distinct discomfort. This is no easy burden to carry; I’m not sure she felt that blessed at times to pray the burdens God placed on her heart--yet that was her call and she felt utterly privileged to receive it.

And for us it’s no different. We can be any place at any time and we can get that burgeoning sense, that ‘whisper’ from God, to pray breathe prayers in Jesus’ name over someone either in our midst or someone far away... or a situation, a place, or a heart... and the angels of God join in also--to the praise of God!

The touch of God; there’s never anything that can compare with it. It’s only when he’s touched us we know we’re truly alive, and insatiably, of course, we want more! More love, more power, more wisdom, more majesty, more grace, more Jesus...

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

The Great Baton Change! Our Death

Imagine that at the end of your life there is a baton change like in an athletics relay race. During this relay race that is your life, as you thrust the baton into a hand you barely have time to see, you have only a matter of two seconds to yell to this next ‘runner’ in life a key and critical message to help them on their journey. It’s got to be something you’ve learned during your time living in this world. Something really significant. What would that message be I wonder?

I’ve thought about this, and instantly upon my reflection I came up with the following to blurt out: “There are traps like land mines everywhere, so look out!”

I guess I’d say that because I’ve seen so many stumble and fall, including myself. It’s my own personal experience of life from what I’ve seen. Whether it be temptation, chosen ignorance, lack of awareness, conflict or other, life’s quite difficult to negotiate a lot of the time. We learn both the hard way and the easy way, but the sting of the hard way is felt resoundingly and it lasts doesn’t it?

Yet, given this negative, cautionary charge, how would the person receiving the baton and this imperative resist living a life caked in fear? If that was the only message they’d receive it might leave them a little joyless.

In giving this a little more thought, the positive imperative might be: “Grab every opportunity you can to do good, making the most of your time.”

We have precious little time from an end-of-life viewpoint. Life seems so fundamentally short. A lot of older people nearing death have told us so. Did they do all they wanted to do? Did they reach or achieve at least some of their dreams and goals?

We’re intrigued as to what it might feel like... to be in the experience of our imminent deaths. Even the morbidly fearful will occasionally wonder. Death is mystery as we consciously move into unconsciousness, falling asleep if not suddenly.

Our time will come. Our time on earth, living our life, will end at some point. It bodes us well to think occasionally of our death, what that might look like, and what might the experience hold for us.

What could be waiting on the other side?

Could it be that the way we live impacts the way we live hereafter?

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Test of “Moral Holiness”

I have found that people often hate the term “holiness” as if it’s referring to someone who’s ‘holier the thou,’ which everyone knows is steeped in the worst hypocrisy. Even Christians hate being tagged as ‘holy’ because they think how the world thinks of them i.e. ‘they think they’re above us,’ i.e. superior to them. But that’s not true moral holiness.

The word “holy” does mean ‘set apart’ or words to that effect, but not in status, only in action. And action is contingent on the present. In other words we can only act in moral holiness by what we do. We have to maintain it. Our characters are defined, morally, in this way. As in sport, we’re only as good as our last game.

A simple test of moral holiness is simply demonstrating ‘this is what it looks like.’ It must be definable, visible, observable. The Christian’s job is to ensure holiness speaks via their actions. If our actions are truly holy we “define God to the world [i.e. they see him through us] and help the world find God,” for we too were once without God, and we saw him through what others, displaying holiness, did.[1]

I don’t know about you but I hate the thought of being seen as a self-righteous hypocrite. The fact is when we’re acting in holy ways we’re the absolute direct opposite of this ‘self-righteous’ image. Nothing could be further from ignorant and arrogant pride than holiness.

But it’s such an old-fashioned word in any event, “holiness.” It is grossly unfortunate that we tire of ‘old-fashioned’ things in our society, in this generation.

Plainly, our acts of kindness, respect, trust, love and faithfulness (amongst a plethora of other virtues) are what defines God to the world and helps the world find God. Only acts can be holy, not people. People are sinful, but the resurrection power of God through Jesus Christ is sufficient to raise people morally, giving them the want to love, be kind, respectful and faithful.

So, when we give our seat up for the elderly and disabled, or talk to people respectfully even if they’re rude to us, or when we honour names, and when we hone our manners (even though these too are apparently ‘old-fashioned’) in all sorts of ways, we’re saying to the world, ‘This is what holiness i.e. Godliness, looks like.’

It is incumbent on us to do this all the time, to the joy of God and to the pleasure of all others who must surely benefit. The Christian can never be characterised consistently by poor relationships, for “affection covers all that do not love strife” (Proverbs 10:12b LXX). This is manifest moral holiness.

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

[1] Garry & 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. 106.

Meaningless Ruminations: Avoid the Snare

“Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ” –Colossians 2:8 (Msg).

One thing I see a fair bit of in life are the time wasting discussions about things that, in the overall scheme of things, don’t amount to much. And also some people seem trapped and destined for lives of worrying about such little things that don’t matter. They’re victims of reverse discernment i.e. discernment of the wrong things.

The things of God are plain for anyone who chooses to see. Yet, in every age there are stacks of false teachers ruminating truth out of context. And, oh, what a snare.

And this is never so more apparent in this day as in the world of email and blogging. It’s not so much the original views that are expressed per se, but the never-ending discussion threads that ensue. There’s a world of different views even two people might have in the context of one single point; making a point, and the back and forth nature of doing so, is often positively futile.

We’re better served to focus on thinking our own viewpoints through, expressing them well and only once, as well as considering fairly (and respecting) others’ viewpoints; learning that the irresolvables are just that--irresolvable.

Finding not fault but congruence and alignment in others’ reflections is one way to build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), avoiding endless chatter about meaningless things.

This is a skill of wisdom in discerning when to engage and when to leave well enough alone, as I’m often surprised how ordinarily intelligent people can be dragged into events and issues with quite scant awareness for what they are.

It goes to show, there’s more to ‘intelligence’ than smarts and the academically-challenged person can easily jump the pack and live better, i.e. superiorly, to that of the so-called intelligently-blessed who can’t resist a good debate.

Practical, spiritually-based wisdom is the key. Discern well to redeem time.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
I write this at the risk of an antithesis of exegesis, acknowledging that Paul wrote this section of Colossians in a different context (with regard to false teachers reinforcing human tradition at the expense of the Spiritual, under the New Covenant). My hope is the reader will read this with my admission of acknowledgement in mind.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stopping the Program “Smith”

SMITH: “Why, Mr. Anderson? Why, why, why? Why do you do it? Why, why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you’re fighting for something, for more than your survival?

“Can you tell me what it is, do you even know? Is it freedom, or truth, perhaps peace, could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson, vagaries of perception. Temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without any meaning or purpose!

“And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself. Although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it Mr. Anderson, you must know it by now. You can’t win, it’s pointless to keep fighting! Why, Mr. Anderson, why? Why do you persist?”[1]

NEO: “Because I choose to.”[2]

The Matrix trilogy is a masterful compilation of gospel allusions. Good versus evil, and after a titanic struggle, Good triumphs--not because it’s good per se, but because it fought in the realism of faith and weakness; something that evil cannot conceive as a formidable, or even ‘relevant,’ defense.

Neo represents the will to continue, to endure. He fights for reasons Smith cannot comprehend despite his radical machine intelligence. And this is typical of evil. It’s incredibly intelligent, even perfect in its reasoning, but its very weakness is that it doesn’t account for strength in weakness. It thinks like it thinks and does what it does, never really able to quite conceive the twists and turns of God-thought.

There are so many errant programs in this world, giving testimony to this fact. As the Oracle suggests in The Matrix (the first movie) we only ever see things out of control as they hit the News; everything else supports life quietly, in the realm of its designated function.

Infamy or stealth? We choose each day. Like the couple who skipped off with their bank’s several million dollars thinking they’d get away with it, or the woman reportedly witnessing something remarkable and filmed as such--and to which later it was revealed she didn’t; ‘the program’ of our moral reasoning reveals us as an effective or errant. We gain the tranquil life by stealth to the ‘quiet enjoyment’ and benefit of all or we retrieve infamy for our fault--and our program i.e. our reputation, is seemingly forever tainted (until Christ steps in, if we allow him).

The Press media loves the juicy, worldly, distasteful tripe. It will conceal its inherent love for gossip, innuendo and sensationalisation in reporting a share of feel-good stories. It cooperates with both good and evil; it all depends on the price… a question of cost/benefit. But, equally, God uses good and evil in almost the very same way; for good eventually. Even in base evil, good can always gain ascendency.

The fight between good and evil in this world has occurred since the Fall, and it’ll continue to rage until the consummation of all things.

Smith, as mentioned, is a very smart, complex and awesome program. But the inevitability of his success is fraught with critical repose. It assumes that one hundred percent of all probabilities can account for all possibilities; and, mathematically, this would be correct. It’s an entirely reasonable assumption.

Yet Smith’s data is incomplete. His ‘intel’ has understated and not understood the actual inventory. He has not accounted for a realm of thought, a softer more moral intelligence, for he’s not got the ability of discernment to correctly encounter with it. There’s nothing to prompt doubt, so he cannot understand or reconcile faith. Rejection is beyond him, so love and acceptance are too.[3]

Certainly winning and losing are on Smith’s radar, and that is intrinsic to his purpose: to win at any cost. Cost too is irrelevant; it is simply to price of the ‘inevitable’ victory.

And what of Neo? One thing to surmise is he doesn’t fall for any of Smith’s rhetoric. Human beings experience doubt and rejection, yes, but they have the equal abilities to have faith beyond doubt, and to choose acceptance over rejection. We skate both above and below the lines of reason.

Note the difference that could be defined in the word, potential. Human beings have potential for rising above predicted, reasonable responses.

It’s a choice, and often an unreasonable one at that. It’s a moral choice that is not always traceable based on reason alone; not until it ‘informs’ reason. Unreasonableness separates us from the machine world. It is our critical weakness, but also our indomitable, unpredictable strength.

We can choose to go on even when it hurts and all seems lost. When the ‘inevitable’ is just about to sweep over us, if we keep sight of our purpose i.e. to stop the Smith programs of this world, we might just do it. Doubt and we lose. Submit to feelings of rejection and we lose--because the errant programs predict our response. But they don’t know the potential of our resilience of will.

The errant programs are so solidly Satanic and evil, yet most of the purveyors of these programs do not realise it until it’s too late. They do not see how they’re taken for a ride. They do not think holistically enough. They don’t account for the possibilities beyond their own impressive intelligences; possibilities that are no less there than their own.

The brightest light for the Neo’s of this world (the would-be saviours in Jesus’ name) is the light of hope beyond reason and rationality. Like lateral thinking, this hope beyond staid hope, whilst inexplicable before the event, is entirely reasonable and logical with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.

We cannot always tell the rub of things. But God--in all his love, wisdom, power and glory--not only can, but he also writes it. These transcendent qualities of love, wisdom, power and glory (if indeed they could be quantifiably described) are the most inestimatable qualities known--actually ever-present--to all Creation.

And this raises one single point to conclude with.

A question in fact...

Why is it that Neo endures?

Quite simply, his endurance is inspired by hope (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3). But there’s a precursor even to hope; he is buoyed by the thought of the collective human effort, no less, the team, and certainly, Trinity.[4] There is always something bigger than himself that impels him enduringly forward.

We impoverish ourselves when we lazily forget to consider the whole, and particularly when we forget to be thankful, for thankfulness drives hope longingly forward. Why would we not, for instance, be thankful in acknowledging the truth of God’s revelation, and his ‘inevitable’ victory, no less?

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] “The Matrix Revolutions.” Wikiquote. Retrieved 25 May 2009.
[2] “The Matrix Revolutions.” Ibid.
[3] Yet, Smith seems capable of frustration and anger; could it be that Smith is capable of peace and contentment? Perhaps this is where the contrastive allusions, for the purposes of this discussion, have their limit?
[4] Certainly the allusion to Neo’s love of Trinity is a theological one. His love for Trinity is almost unreasonable, and by virtue of his moral reasoning (which seems unreasonable compared to the ‘logical’ choice to save humanity) his faithfulness is shown as complete, just as the Saviour’s faithfulness to the (rest of the) Holy Trinity is also complete at the cross.

The Empowerment (or Trap) of Expectations

Ever noticed how given we are to feelings of disappointment, betrayal or depression? It is very human of us of course to feel these things, and it’s, well, basically natural. But it doesn’t have to be quite so natural. We might be surprised to find out that our expectations of things can either be our best friend or worst enemy. They can empower us or trap us.

Expectations are such powerful things. Imagine being able to consistently hold a view of life like Fritz Perls’ below:

“I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine.”[1]
We can feel the power of autonomy and personal responsibility in this statement above.

What he is saying is his expectations are not driven fundamentally from his belief systems, but they may be more directly linked to his own deliberate intent; something he’s very much more in control of.

The fact is nearly all of us have quite fragile and partly erroneous belief systems that often cause us to think and act in unproductive, even harmful ways--that is until we decide to train our minds to think ‘manually.’ We do this by going around our beliefs, bypassing them, and instead thinking and acting from our deeply held values.

Our values are much more concrete and likely to be consistent with logical thought toward the achievement of our purpose and specific goals.

What Perls is also saying in the second half of the quote is the people in his world are not going to be held to ransom by him if they don’t produce on demand what he expects. Further even than this, he’s not going to entertain expectations of others at all, unless they’re stated.

Both frames of mind in the Perls quote around expectations are clearly healthy, not simply for us as individual persons, but also for all of those we interact with via work, at home, and socially. The only push back we might get is from people who have unfair expectations of us.

I have found it helpful to reflect on these questions in sorting my helpful expectations from those that are plainly unhelpful:

1. What expectations do I have right now; and, how are they helping or hindering me? (How/Why)

2. Are my expectations within my direct control?[2] (Yes/No)

3. Are my expectations congruent with my intentions? (Yes/No)

4. Finally, do I need these expectations? (Why) And, in other words, do they serve me or others? (How)

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

Acknowledgement: This article and the basis of the four questions above were inspired by David Deane-Spread’s ATT-C© “Attitudinal Competence” system via his e-book, Master the Power of Your Attitudes: The workbook to choose your best Attitudes, Values, Purpose and Goals (Nedlands, Western Australia: ANJA Publishers, 2004), p. 17.
[1] This quote is cited in Deane-Spread, p. 17. The full text of the Gestalt Prayer by Perls is: “I do my thing and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, And you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful. If not, it can’t be helped” —Fritz Perls, 1969. Source: Wikipedia, Gestalt Prayer. Retrieved 25 May 2009
[2] Deane-Spread says, “It is ridiculous to hold expectations about anything that is not within your direct power, or given as a commitment by others.”

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Becoming the FULLER Person: Embracing All Myers-Briggs Types in your Personality

Everyone it seems wants it all; but was is it? Having it “all” means many different things to different people. It suddenly dawned on me only recently that the only thing or ‘possession’ of eternal goodness is the character developed toward a full personality i.e. one that can embrace every person and every situation possible with love, respect and understanding, in a word, unconditionality.

In essence, this means the acceptance of, and ability to work with, all kinds of different situations; essentially the antithesis of bigotry, ignorance and arrogance.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a well established personality profiling tool. “Type” as it’s known, explains our innate preferences regarding how we like to live, work, and interact with people and life in general.

Its sixteen types cover essentially a complete sweep of the human psyche.

Some of us are very tightly described in one of these sixteen areas, by virtue of strong preferences along the four continuums: introversion (I) versus extroversion (E); sensing (S) versus intuition (N); thinking (T) versus feeling (F); and, judging (J) versus perceiving (P). Each of these four continuums, at its extremes, describes a dichotomy.

Some again sit closer to the midline in one or two areas (lessening the effectual dichotomies), meaning that in some situations they’ll go one way, and in other situations they’ll go the other. Being closer to the midline on any one of the four continuums is a distinct advantage in life as it means we’re more adaptable and flexible, and possibly more mature.

This is all assuming that we can change our personality profiles marginally over the lifespan--a belief that I hold. None of us are so set in our ways that we cannot, or won’t, change.

The theory of a “fuller” personality is that we’d come close to the midline on one, two or possibly more of the four continuums.

The ideal, of course, might be close-to-midline results on all continuums though it’s hard to see that occurring in many people in reality.

But, just think. The closer our preferences are to the midlines, and the more we can appreciate life situations naturally from all sixteen perspectives, the greater scope we might have in our relationships, and the less conflict we might encounter, overall.

Is this the ultimate expression of humility i.e. acceptance of others’ viewpoints?

At the end of the day “Type” theory is most important for recognising how differences between us can enhance our lives and our contributions, mitigating misunderstanding and miscommunication.

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

Judging Versus Perceiving – in the Workplace

Disclaimer: This is not about ‘judging’ people. This is, however, about Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality profiling preferences in discussion of the J/P preference.

Ever noticed how some people frustrate us in either their lack of decisiveness or conversely their rigid, unbending sticking to schedule? Or perhaps it’s tardiness on a project, or the opposite extreme of anal observance of project deadlines toward completion i.e. ‘on time and on budget,’ by hook or by crook?

There’s a lot that personality type preferences can explain in all of this. It’s not surprising that neither the ‘overly flexible’ nor the ‘inflexible’ are overtly or necessarily wrong or right.

In their work, those with a judging preference prefer to plan their work and follow the plan; perceivers, however, want to have flexibility in their work. Judgers want issues settled and finished, but perceivers are more comfortable with spontaneity and having decisions carried over as long as possible.

Again, those with a perceiving preference will tend toward enjoying the journey, whilst those with a judging preference focus on timely completion of a project. Reaching the ‘end,’ and not the journey, motivates them.

Some feel constrained by structure, schedules and ‘the process,’ whilst others can’t do without them. Who’s the judger and who’s the perceiver? Of course, the former is the person with a strong preference for perceiving and the latter is the person with a strong preference for judging.

From the above you might be able to tell your own preference. You might also be able to tell what preference your work colleagues exhibit, and importantly, what preference your supervisor or manager has in their work and their (stated and unstated) expectations of you.[1]

This knowledge can be important in our understanding that when people think and act differently to us they’re not necessarily being pig-headed; they just might see the world from a different viewpoint. Neither our viewpoint nor theirs is overtly right or wrong.

So, in noting differences, there’s no need and no reason to become frustrated.

And it’s also timely to point out that these preferences are likely to be combined in quite complex ways, meaning we’ll exhibit bits of both judging and perceiving, further complicating the reading of our personalities (certainly from the other person’s viewpoint)!

Overall, whether we’re (or others are) decisive or exploratory is okay. From the viewpoint of the MBTI judging/perceiving preference, both responses are valid.

It further advocates the need for a wide array of personality types on teams so all possible and relevant facets of experience can be identified and explored.

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

Isabel Myers-Briggs, Introduction to Type (Registered) – 6th Ed. (Palo Alto, California: CPP, Inc., 1998), p. 28.
[1] If you want to support or “manage” your supervisor or manager it is critically important to know how their preferences influence their perceptions and hence their behaviour.

New Word for Self-Reflection - “Implain”

I propose a new word for the English language: Implain. Unfortunately, however, until it’s recognised and becomes known it will continue to come up with an annoying red-squiggle under it in Microsoft Word.

To ‘google’ the word, implain, we simply get nouns i.e. people’s names, or our search goes to results for “implant.”

Rationale for the new word: consider explode, which means crudely, to “burst noisily,” with implode which means just as generally, to “burst inward.”[1] Or, perhaps, expel compared with impel. The prefixes ‘ex-’ and ‘im-’ seem to have generally consistent application--application we can extend to this word, implain.

To explain is to ‘make level’… make known, plain and understandable… to show logical development or relationships of things.[2] It is an outward action of behaviour of creating shared understanding.

To implain is to ‘seek level’… creation of, or towards, making known i.e. as an antecedent to ‘making known, plain and understandable.’ It is further, the organising of the logical development or relationship of things. It is an inward action of thought and reflection toward the goal of later creating a shared understanding, and even a personal understanding--and that as its end.

Moreover, our ‘implanations’[3] might never be shared. In this way, implanation is the self-explanation that goes on in our internal world of learning and attribution. It’s the process of developing our perceptions.

The introverted are perfectly suited to implaining whereas explaining suits the extrovert, unless we allow the introvert to consider and plan for their explanations.

And the benefit of deliberate i.e. planned implaining, you might ask? Well, it goes to work for our planning activities, in considering what we may need to explain in our day to day.

Consider the amount of times we’re asked to explain ourselves, and we fumble through these situations, not because we don’t want to tell the truth--we just don’t have truth to tell; because we haven’t adequately organised our minds. We haven’t taken the time (yet) to sort fact from fiction, based in reason and reflection. (This is a separation of factual truth from moral truth, as moral truth (at least in this context) is instinctual, whereas factual truth relies on data, and the recall of it--this is often implicit of considered thought, though moral reasoning is involved.)

Implaining is one way toward organising our truthful selves. It is complemented via the art of journaling.

At the very least, the word implain creates a relationship with the word explain, much like for the words: explode, implode, expel and impel.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] “implode” and “explode.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. Merriam-Webster Online. 22 May 2009.
[2] “explain.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. Merriam-Webster Online. 22 May 2009.
[3] Implanation: a process by which we consider concepts and reason, and in that process, create attributions from our internal deliberations; this can happen both subconsciously and consciously.

Reconciliation – Keys to Peace and Restoration

One of the first election promises the Rudd government delivered on was the national apology to the Indigenous peoples of Australia for previous governments’ creation and mishandling of the Stolen Generations debacle. It was step one in the harmonisation process of seeking to correct the wrong in these affected peoples’ lives, and a national government (representing previous ones) seeking forgiveness.

This process of reconciliation is an important one. Even though many bigoted white Australians have been offended by this move, not getting the fact that this is a ‘national’ apology,[1] not a personal one, most people will inevitably see this as a way forward toward everyone working together, for good.

The same principles apply at the spiritual level. I’ve been studying and writing about rejection. The key final process of assuaging rejection is meeting the people who rejected us and forgiving them. We do this to our direct benefit, notwithstanding theirs.

It will not be an understatement to say that for some this will be incredibly difficult. Some people have copped abuse from family members or have even had criminal acts committed against them.

For at least a portion of the Indigenous population, the National Apology was a salving start; a key first step in their forgiving of this Nation’s errant policy of bygone years. Of course, this forgiveness is given in faith.[2]

When we seek peace and restoration through the forgiving of people who’ve wronged us we too do it in faith; and this faith is about what God can do in our hearts to smoothen out the billowed clouds of disappointment and rejection that continue to hold us back.

And from a person who’s seen how God works, in this way, I can testify that he wants us to test his faithfulness in this area. We can often powerfully wrest control of our own destinies from the devil when we courageously and actively seek to reconcile those past travesties. We just must remain faithful through the process, that’s all. Once we’ve started, we must continue right throughout the journey of the remainder of our lives.

The courage of faith is required; much prayer, belief and a plan. Time is no healer in the real scheme of things, only forgiveness toward restoration is. And this is true for us all.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] When anyone who’s fair-minded considers that on average the indigenous person dies some 17 years earlier than the Caucasian Australian and other Australians, they are almost certainly given to mild disgust. This disparity can be linked to socio-economic reasons of the system; a system that has created both tangible and intangible health disadvantages for the indigenous Australian. True reconciliation sees this (Indigenous health) as the key output/outcome measure toward the success of the process over the next few generations--this problem, created over generations, can’t be fixed overnight.
[2] The challenge for the National Rudd Government is to back the apology with Policy that will derive social and economic freedom for the Indigenous people of Australia--at least freedom on the same level as that enjoyed by the rest of the Australian populace.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Having Nothing, yet Possessing All Things

“If you accept the fact that ownership on earth is only fleeting and for a time, then you may be ready for eternal possessions in heaven”
–Paulinus of Nola.[1]
To the Corinthians in his final canonical letter Paul said,
“But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: … as having nothing, and yet possessing all things”
–2 Corinthians 6:4a, 10b

Such wild contrasts in life; real poverty and wealth.

We, in our society, know scant little of real destitute poverty. We’d have to go to another--third world--country to see it, and even then we’d not know it because we’d have to actually live it, starving, not out of choice as we might do when fasting or out of guilt, but being devoid of the means to survive, physically.

But this discussion is not about that.

It’s about the spiritual choice to give it all up for ‘eternal possessions in heaven,’ a choice of true, grounded faith.

From a purely technical viewpoint, verse 10b is the seventh and final antithesis regarding Paul’s list of then-present hardships, transferring the reality of hardship for the eternal reality of glory. “There is a paradoxical dimension to [Paul’s] life, then, that only those who understand the workings of the Spirit can perceive.”[2]

And just like the poor widow who gave away all she had (Mark 12:41-44), we cannot possibly know the ease of that decision until we ourselves have made it, casting our welfare and ever-personal cares to the wind. And what for? For the spiritual blessings of the eternal God… another thing for those only who understand the workings of the Spirit.

On a lesser scale is giving up something we cherish for the things eternal. How can we be ready for our heavenly inheritance if we can’t give up the ‘precious things of earth?’ To not release these precious things is to be in bondage, and a slave, to them.

Quite truly, I recall hearing a missionary from Mozambique decry the temptations heaped upon us in Western civilisation, for those living on less than one dollar a day are all ready for heaven in their hearts!

It wasn’t as if he had a problem with us, having been a slouchy Westerner most of his life himself, but he was both bemused with the contrastive polar irony in one world, yet sympathetic to the obvious problems these trappings create for us, including obesity, diabetes, addictions, and a plethora of social problems rooted in selfishness and materialism.

The original quote is truly remarkable. Think about it. It reverses the natural order of the wealthy and the poor. The less we have, the more we’re ready. Even better, the person who has much but would sooner give it all away to please God whom has ownership of his soul!

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Thomas C. Oden, The Good Works Reader – Classic Christian Readers (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007), p. 75.
[2] Frank J. Matera, II Corinthians – A Commentary (The New Testament Library) (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), p. 156.

Humble Submission: The Highest Station in Life

The prophets of old can teach us many powerful lessons about how to live this life we’ve come to know. Scanning through the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament, I was struck by this:

“The word of the LORD Almighty came to me. This is what the LORD Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace”
–Zechariah 8:18-19 (TNIV).
Anyone who knows their Bible, and the purpose of Israel (and the Church today), will know these stand to point people to God. Israel, God’s chosen people, was not special per se, but they were chosen to herald to the world, godly (or holy) ways of living.

The prophet Zechariah sees God offering hope to a largely hopeless people as the period of exile was ending. God had restored the land to the Remnant. Now Zechariah is preaching this hope in quite a translucent, ominously-challenging way.

The not one, not two, but four fasts mentioned commemorate important times when the people had been crushed. Traditionally, these times might have attracted solemn reflection and even lament for what the forefather must have experienced under such tyranny. With Stoic countenance the people will, in this way--in their commitment to God, thank him resolutely.

Hope, in this passage, is pungent. With grace, God has ended their woes, and his salvation has come in a lasting way. The hope is so strong that the people are told to fast resolutely and gladly (not sombrely) in honour of grievous times past. And they are to do this obediently, in response to their loving God’s disciplinary acts toward their disobedient ancestors; for in this they’ve learned life-saving lessons in how to live life and how not to live it.

This reminds us, today, of the need to remember. We must remember the patterns held to account in the Old Testament; patterns of blessing and cursing, of obedience and disobedience, of humility and pride, and of fear of God and idolatry.

These patterns remain today (and always). The insightful see the times, for there are as many prophets today as any other time in history. We ought to be grateful for our history, our human history, for it points us to the way to live.

We’re to love truth and peace. This is how we’re to reap continued blessings of God. This is how we please him. And it doesn’t come without costs, not least of which is our pride. Living the appreciable life of truth and peace is a delicate, tenuous balance.

And this form of blessing is merely the start of things. As we maintain our love of truth and peace, God breaks through hearts in new ways--in his way. Ways we’d never expect. And a more universal sense of blessing is felt (see Zechariah 8:20-23).

In obedient faith toward ‘entreating’[1] God is forged a new, indomitable approach to life which ushers in God’s time of renewal and revival. Hasten the day. Bring it to pass, now, even now.

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

John L. Mackay, Haggai, Zechariah & Malachi – God’s Restored People (Fearn, Ross-Shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1994, 2003), p. 167-68.

Thomas E. McComiskey, “Zechariah” in The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical & Expository Commentary (T.E. McComiskey ed.) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House Company, 1998), p. 1154. The title of this article cites a variation of a phrase of McComiskey’s.

M. Butterworth, “Zechariah” in New Bible Commentary (D.A. Carson, R.T. France, J.A. Moyter & G.J. Wenham eds.) (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1953, 1954, 1970, 1994), p. 872-75.
[1] The value of entreating God is quite significant, theologically, to this passage. “Entreat” means “to plead with especially in order to persuade: ask urgently i.e. plead with.” "entreat." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009. Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved 23 May 2009.

Rejection & God

Josh is the fictitious character in a play and Darren’s got the gig. Darren in real life is from quite a well-adjusted family and his overall life circumstances thus far have brought him safely to this moment in his acting career, yet he has to get his mind around Josh’s vastly indifferent past, and ‘act him’ with genuine empathy and passion. Tough task, no doubt.

See, ‘Josh’ has suffered the same amount of pain and rejection as many do in this day of broken families. Having an alcoholic father and a mother who never coped under the strain, he found his own imperfect ways of coping, shelving thought of bravely facing his reality. His sense of felt rejection has seen him nervously interact with life--his closest relationships are characterised by a seemingly impenetrable surface-level rapport; he won’t let anyone ‘in.’

Darren must somehow find a way to ‘feel’ Josh so as to play him well, convincingly. And it’s not that hard for him the more he thinks about it. Even from his close-to-perfect upbringing there is a tinge of woundedness, for no parent can perfectly protect their progeny from rejection.

The difference for Darren between his own experience and that of Josh’s is Darren’s learned how to successfully cope with his disappointments. For one, he’s had sufficient familial support, as both a mechanism and an affirmation of self-esteem nurture.

When he’s not been accepted he’s not taken it too badly, and he’s even been honest about it in a brave sort of way--fear of failure doesn’t rock his world like it does Josh’s.

The subject of acceptance and rejection brings us to something very relevant we can all do in promoting harmony in all we interact with.

Trust is the both the hardest thing to maintain and the easiest thing to threaten in relationships. It is the precious juice that flows between people wherever there is acceptance; but rejection, particularly in those least equipped to cope, dries up the flow of trust like glue, stifling growth and impacting on people’s wellbeing and their relationships in general. (The confidence of trust just simply evaporates in the presence of rejection for the ill-equipped.)

And there is so much selfish ridicule and rejection in this world. During the recent Eurovision Song Contest the local commentators took no prisoners in slating the various countries’ spokesperson’s as the votes were called in. It seemed that the ‘boring parts’ of the presentation (and there weren’t many) needed filling with so-called humorous anecdotes about what they wore, how they spoke or how confident they appeared.

The world loves selfish ridicule for it never hurts until it does! The world doesn’t understand the impact of hurt because it doesn’t seek to empathise. Suddenly, when people who routinely hurt people are hurt themselves, the revelation is thunderously shocking. Go figure.

Ridicule is essentially rejection veiled in humour. And it reveals a character flawed in its own horrible imperfections. For who would seek to ridicule if they felt soundly accepted within themselves?

We all know implicitly those with the least developed skills in facing rejection and it bodes those of us concerned with doing God’s will to walk gently with these, but this doesn’t help them in the longer term.

The only thing that helps this person--a modern-day Josh--over the longer term is a fearless and comprehensive reliance on God, with all the courage that they can muster. “Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.”[1] And when we do this--not only for alcoholics--God delivers; he doesn’t disappoint.

He never rejects us once we’ve accepted his salvation through belief in his Son, Jesus, who bore such shameful and eternally comprehensive, but paradoxical, rejection that we might be saved from the ultimate rejection--that of being cut off from God in eternity for which we’re all bound for!

The harshest rejection in this life is almost nothing in comparison to the acceptance we find in heaven. Go with God, for in him is victory over any rejection.

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

[1] Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., Alcoholics Anonymous (a.k.a. “Big Book”) – 4th Ed. (New York, New York: A.A.W.S. Inc., 1939, 1955, 1976, 2001), p. 58.