Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Five Most Popular Facebook Pictures in 2015

People like pictures, especially when they contain smiley people - smiley couples, smiley kids, smiley families, lots of smiles. One of my resolutions for 2016 is to work hard on my smile. Below are my most popular Facebook (via Instagram) pictures taken during 2015. Enjoy.

In the spring we went on a Beijing excursion, and Megan and I took a walk in the hutongs (alleyways).
Earlier this month Megan and I ate at a nearby Korean restaurant (part of Rose's Gotcha Day celebration).

The Wickershams at the TIS International Day 

Cow Appreciation Day (July 14) with Grandpa & Grandma Downs - Lafayette, Indiana
An 11th Anniversary selfie at Purdue University where I attended from 91 to 93

Reviewing Jerry Bridges' Who Am I? Identity in Christ

Who Am I? Identity in Christ is the third book I've read by Jerry Bridges. Other books I've read by this Navigators staff member include Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate and The Pursuit of Holiness. All three books I highly recommend. Who Am I? is roughly 100 pages and consists of an introduction and eight chapters. The chapter titles are:

1. I Am a Creature
2. I Am in Christ
3. I Am Justified
4. I Am an Adopted Son of God
5. I Am a New Creation
6. I Am a Saint
7. I Am a Servant of Jesus Christ
8. I Am Not Yet Perfect

Throughout his book, Jerry Bridges soundly answers the crucial question, Who Am I?,  by using Scripture and stories from his own life. Chapter 1 focuses on what it means to be created in the Father's image. In Chapter 2 we get an explanation of what it means to be in Christ, and in the last six chapters, we learn about six aspects of our new identity in Christ.

New believers might be introduced to some theological terms they're unfamiliar with; however, the explanations are easy to understand. Mature believers will get a gospel-centered review of what it means to identify as a believer first and foremost. We are reminded that our identity should not lie in our job, the school we graduated from, or who our friends are, but in Christ alone. Endorsements are given by conservative evangelical theologians like J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, and yours truly. I suggest setting aside 2.5 hours and checking out the book. Just try not to stare at the creepy dude on the cover.

Monday, December 28, 2015

My 15 Most Popular Posts in 2015

Although I've been blogging for nearly 14 years, I'm a horrible blogger according to the blog experts. I don't blog on a regular basis, and I can go months without blogging. I post my blogs at times when there might be little traffic, and I unpredictably post at all times of the day. I blog about several topics that interest me instead of focusing on just one topic like quilting or manliness. I think my header and how my blog posts are displayed could be revamped; however, I don't want to invest the time to figure that out and make the changes. Despite all of my bad blogging habits, I'm more than fine with Wick I Am. This blog in many ways is a sort of an online journal and a way for my American and Japanese family and my international friends to get a glimpse into our lives in the Middle Kingdom. For those of you who don't know us, I hope the blog can bless you as well. Below are the 15 most popular posts I wrote in 2015. Woo!

15. At One Time,,, I Never Wanted...
14. Happy Patrick of Ireland Day IV
13. Reviewing John Seyfarth's Human Resource Leadership For Effective Schools
12. Reviewing Ella K. Lindvall's The Bible in Pictures For Toddlers
11. Six Deep Questions My Sixth Graders Ask Every Year
10. The Beautiful Game: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
  9. Family Devos During Advent - The Wickersham Way
  8. My Amazing 4-Year-Old Foosball Player
  7. What If Your Daughters Weren't Soccer Players?
  6. The 2014-2015 Wickersham Christmas Break
  5. 12 Ways Tianjin Transpo Has Changed During My 12+ Years Here
  4. 12 Ways the Tianjin Food Scene Has Changed During My 12+ Years Here
  3. "Three Adoptions? You're So Good, Wick."
  2. The Story of the Wickersham Adoptions
  1. I'm So Thankful My Son Josiah Only Has One Hand

Wick's 2015 Highlights

The Father blessed me a great deal in 2015, and below is a little glimpse of those blessings. Here are past Wickersham highlights: 2010201120122013, & 2014.

January - I traveled to Nanjing International School with the TIS Kid's Read team and served as a judge at the competition. It's exciting to see middle schoolers get pumped about books.

February - After years of considering the Kairos course, I finally find the energy to give up some vacation time to participate in it. Definitely worth it.

March - Soccer, track and field, volleyball, and wrestling are all sports I've coached. Now you can add basketball to the list since I served as the assistant coach of the 7th-grade boy's basketball team at TIS.

April - It was announced that I will serve as the TIS girl's high school varsity soccer coach in the spring. This will be my first high school team since 2003. Where does the time go?

May - Megan and I worked at an English Camp in nearby Jixian. It was great to get away from the city and teach English to youngsters.

June - I coached five weeks at the Indy Eleven Youth Soccer Camps, and Rose and Grace joined me for three of those weeks. I'm thankful to have daughters playing on some of the same fields I did as a kid.

July - I professionalized and renewed my Indiana educator's license so I'm good to teach U.S. history, geography, and sociology in the Hoosier state for at least another ten years.

August - We moved over a gate and to the ninth floor to occupy a beautiful two-story apartment, courtesy of LDi. It was the seventh apartment move in 12 years, but each apartment was an upgrade.

September - My in-laws and nephew from Indiana paid us a visit, and we celebrated Fred's 70th birthday in style at Pizza Bianca.

October - I presented a coaching workshop at the ISC Conference and reconnect with some old friends. It was wonderful that I didn't blow chunks and have the Hershey squirts like last year.

November - I started coaching the under-12 boy's volleyball team at TIS. All of my players are my students, and most of them were on my soccer squad.

December - We hosted a Christmas Eve gathering after singing Christmas carols in the neighborhood. We've done this for a few years now, and it felt extra special this year to be able to open our home.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Reviewing R.C. Sproul's The Truth of the Cross

Dr. Sproul has been instrumental in helping me live a cross-centered life. Aside from John Piper, no person has taught me more about the Son of Man. In Dr. Sproul's The Truth of the Cross, you get a 167-page survey of the atonement of the Author of our Faith. Below are how the ten chapters of the book are divided. The last chapter consists of nine thought-provoking questions.

1. The Necessity of an Atonement
2. The Just God
3. Debtors, Enemies, and Criminals
4. Ransomed from Above
5. The Saving Substitute
6. Made Like His Brethren
7. The Suffering Servant
8. The Blessing and the Curse
9. A Secure Faith
10. Questions and Answers

The Truth of the Cross is not fun reading, yet it was a book I wanted to read and is the type of reading we should all undertake. Although the topic is complex, Dr. Sproul explains the atonement in a way that many can understand. I'm thankful for Dr. Sproul and the impact he has made on me and on thousands of others. If you hold to an Arminian viewpoint, you may disagree with Dr. Sproul's take on various theological topics; however, I still strongly recommend The Truth of the Cross. Dr. Sproul provides solid Scripture references and logical arguments that everyone should consider - arguments that I wholeheartedly agree with and point me to the cross.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. Isaiah 53:7

Let's Play "Name That Chip!"

Although it's a little polluted here in the big city, it's a perfect time to play "Name That Chip!". Tonight we had some new friends over, and I was very impressed with one contestant's ability to name that chip. Although he had never tried any of the unique flavors you see below, it was evident that the young man had done some studying in the grocery aisles at the local Vanguard.

Living overseas can be challenging at times, but I'm thankful how we're able to combat the challenges of overseas life with the funky chips produced by Lay's. Doesn't Hot & Sour Fish Soup, Sour Plum & Melon, and Cheese Lobster chips sound exciting? Thanks, Lay's. You da best.

I didn't care for these chips; it's like bad sour cream.
These aren't bad. If you like mutton sticks, you should like these chips.
I'm into squid, but this combo is a bit too funky for me.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

At One Time, I Never Wanted...

At one time, I never wanted to live in a city.

At one time, I never wanted to live in China.

At one time, I never wanted to have three kids.

At one time, I never wanted a boy.

At one time, I never wanted to be a principal.

At one time, I never wanted to teach His Word.

At one time, I never wanted to preach His Word.

At one time, I never wanted to celebrate the true Creator and Christmas.

Thanks be to Him who changed my heart and my life. Thanks be to Him who showed me what I needed and wanted. Thanks be to Him whose will will be done. Glory to God in the highest.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10

12 Ways the Tianjin Food Scene Has Changed During My 12+ Years Here

1. I used to think that going to McDonald's was a little pricey, but the cost of Chinese food can be just as much or more now.
2.We used to get free tea at Chinese restaurants all of the time, but getting free tea is no longer common.
2. TGI Friday's was the place to go for a good burger and cold Coke, but now you can find that combo at several restaurants (e.g., Harley Davidson Club, Smoki & Co, Blue Frog).
3. Pizza Hut used to be a long bus or taxi ride, but now we have a few Pizza Huts that are within bike riding distance.
4. The neighborhood KFC and McDonalds have drive-thrus which were a rarity back in the day.
5. There used to be only one Subway restaurant in the city before it sadly closed its doors. Today you can find the restaurant in numerous locations throughout the city.
6. I never understood what the big deal was with Food Street (Shipin Jie) so I'm not surprised that their doors have closed.
7. When I first moved to Tianjin, the desserts looked pretty, but I often thought they tasted funky. Now you find delicious desserts everywhere that appeal to the American sweet tooth. You can still find the gross stuff too.
8. Coffeehouses, independents and chains, are everywhere now. I think Starbucks is trying to take over the city.
9. We can get cake donuts on Sunday mornings, and I'm proud to announce that Dunkin' Donuts plans to come to Tianjin soon. I had the privilege to visit a Dunkin' Donuts in Shenyang in the spring.
10. Street food is still absolutely delicious, but it's not as cheap as used to be. Gone are the days of dirt cheap (1-2 RMB or 13-25 cents). Think more along the lines of 67 cents to $1+.
11. Food orders can sometimes be made online and often by phone. Many fast food joints have an electric bike infantry.
12. American chains such as Baskin-Robbins, Cold Stone Creamery, and Burger King are in the city. Japanese chains such as CoCo Curry House and Aijisen are also in the city. Both parts of me are satisfied.

To read more about Tianjin's famous cuisine, click here.

Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Roly Poly Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Eat Them Up, Yum!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Reviewing Thomas H. Jeavons and Rebekah Burch Basinger's Growing Givers' Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry

Growing Givers' Hearts is not the type of book I normally pick up. I read the 200-pager for an Institutional Advancement class I took at CIU during the summer of 2013. It is divided into the following three parts and eleven chapters:

I.    What is Christian Fundraising?
       1. Creating Resources for God's Work
       2. What the Bible Says About Giving and Asking
       3. A Brief History of Christian Fundraising
II.   Six Essential Characteristics of Fundraising as a Ministry
       4. Confidence in God's Abundance
       5. A Holistic Perspective on "Kingdom Work"
       6. Clarity About Core Theological Beliefs
       7. Giving Donors Opportunities for Participation
       8. Integrated Organizational Planning
       9. Spiritually Mature Leadership
III. The Fundraiser's Ministry
      10. Fundraising as a Calling
      11. Fundraising as an Invitation to Cooperate with God's Grace

For three years, Jeavons and Basinger studied seven Christian organizations that successfully raise resources. The goal of the authors is to show how fundraising is a ministry and an opportunity for deep spiritual growth. Fundraising can include numerous staff members with a wide set of skills, develop leaders, and be something done creatively with confidence and generosity. Although I don't possess much expertise in the area of fundraising, perhaps it will be a big part of my future one day.

I like how Jeavons and Basinger have Scripture references (NIV 1984) and look at fundraising from a spiritual aspect, but keep in mind that they go about it from an ecumenical approach. They quote passionate reformers, popular Catholic priests, and Quaker theologians. Unfortunately, Chapter 1 starts with a misquote from Saint Francis of Assisi: "Preach the Gospel always; and when necessary, use words." Not only was this quote never said by the friar, it goes against Romans 10:17. Despite the theological differences I have with Jeavons and Basinger, I'm sure Growing Givers' Hearts has benefited many and will continue to help believers to be good stewards of our God-given resources.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Reviewing Albert Mohler's The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles For Leadership That Matters

I bought Albert Mohler's The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters back when I was a principal, but I only recently completed the book. Although I've listened to many of Dr. Mohler's podcasts, watched many of his videos, and read many of his articles and blogs, this was the first book I've read of his. Like what I've listened to, watched, and read of Dr. Mohler's, I wasn't disappointed. Dr. Mohler understands what it takes to be a leader. Dr. Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, a seminary he helped transform in the 90s despite much opposition. Time magazine called him the "reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S." He is a man of truth who isn't afraid to tackle challenging moral, cultural, and theological issues.

Dr. Mohler's book, The Conviction to Lead, is over 220 pages and consists of 25 short chapters. It covers a wide variety of topics ranging from character and credibility to managers and media to writers and worldviews. Although this book is written for Christian leaders, the book can benefit any person who desires to be a leader or is already in a leadership position. Of course, non-Christians will disagree with some of Dr. Mohler's views on leadership, but Dr. Mohler will provide challenge and ideas that will make anyone think. It would be a mistake to simply dismiss the book because it is written by a seminary president. The Conviction to Lead is not a book about preaching, and it certainly does not come across preachy.

I've read a number of books on leadership over the years, and The Conviction to Lead is the most enjoyable book on leadership I've read. Dr. Mohler tells us about some of his real-life experiences as well as major historical events to provide insight on how to make a greater impact in our spheres of influence. If you're looking for a book about managing people, look elsewhere. The Conviction to Lead is a book with firmly held beliefs that can be used to help ignite heart and mind transformation in our classrooms, churches, communities, and culture. I recommend The Conviction to Lead and look forward to reading other books by Dr. Mohler in the near future.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Reviewing The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus VideoBook

During the summer of 2013, I dropped $46 for The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus VideoBook in order to have another resource for family devos. You can find this six DVD set and workbook for $30 at www.goodseed.com. It is based on the Gospel of John and provides a good overview of the main message of the Good Book. John Cross, general director for GoodSeed, begins with creation and threads together essential Old and New Testament accounts. Two questions are focused upon:

1. Who is the Son of Man?
2. What is the good news?

As these questions are answered, nearly 1200 verses are provided. You get 11 hours of instruction divided into 15 chapters and 52 sections with each section ranging between 4 to 27 minutes. Mr. Cross teaches a group of adults in a classroom setting and at times the instruction is provided at historic sites in Israel. At the end of each section, you are to pause the DVD and answer the workbook questions.

Over 70 visual aids are used which I would like for my classroom; however, some people will probably find a few of the visual aids to be a little cheesy. The video could also use an update (e.g., music, font). Although Mr. Cross is not a dynamic speaker, he kept the attention my kiddos (seven and ten years old at the time). If you use the video with children, I wouldn't expect them to listen unless they are regularly presented the gospel message. The video is more geared for adults who want to develop a Christian worldview or those who are open to learning about our Father's character and the nature of sin. Spanish audio and subtitles are options.

We don't plan on using The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus VideoBook again, but I'm glad I bought it. It served its purpose by bringing a change of pace to our family devos and helping us draw closer to the Stranger on the road to Emmaus.

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; Luke 24:13-15

Monday, November 30, 2015

Reviewing Tempel, Seiler, and Aldrich's Achieving Excellence in Fundraising

During the summer of 2013, I took a grad class for school administrators called Institutional AdvancementAchieving Excellence in Fundraising was one of three books I read for this class at CIUAchieving Excellence in Fundraising is not a small book (500 pages), but it's organized into eight manageable parts consisting of 41 short chapters. Below is how the book is divided.

Part 1 - Fundraising: The Art of Relationship Building
Part 2 - Structuring Your Fundraising
Part 3 - Discovering What Donors Value
Part 4 - The Art of Solicitation and Stewardship
Part 5 - Involving Volunteers in Fundraising
Part 6 - Managing the Fundraising Process
Part 7 - Ethics and Accountability
Part 8 - Your Career in Fundraising

You'll also find:

  • A one page of essential texts for nonprofit and public leadership and management
  • An instructor's guide that is available free online
  • Numerous tables, figures, and exhibits throughout the book
  • A 15-page glossary of fundraising terms
  • 10 pages of references
  • An 18-page index

If you are looking to cast a compelling vision, creatively build a professional network, and ethically fundraise large sums of money, I believe you'll find Achieving Excellence in Fundraising to be of help. The editors are leaders at the Lily Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, headquartered at my alma mater, IUPUI. They explain the major truths, theories, and techniques of fundraising and share what other top leaders in the field have said.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Family Devos During Advent - The Wickersham Way

During the Advent season, Wickersham family devotionals look a little different. The focus of this special time is the celebration of the birth of the Son of Man in His first arrival, and the anticipation of the return of the King of Kings in His second arrival. Beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, we bust out a pewter wreath (we pretend it's an evergreen) and five candles (three purple, one red, and one white). This year our purple candles are super short so we substituted them with sweet pink ones. I suppose one can find purple taper candles on Taobao, but I'm going to say pink is close enough to purple for the rest of the year. Once we position the candles on the dining room table, the kiddos pass my quiz about the different Advent symbols before we begin reading Scripture:
  • The Advent wreath is a circular evergreen wreath and has four purple/red candles around it and a white one in the center. 
  • The circle of the wreath reminds us of the Eternal Father and His endless mercy. 
  • The green of the wreath points to the hope that we have in the Father, the hope of newness, renewal, and everlasting life.
  • The candles symbolize God's light coming into a dark world through the birth of His Son. 
  • The four outer candles represent the waiting period during the four Sundays of Advent symbolizing the four hundred years of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the First Noel.
Each Advent Sunday and Christmas Day we read two Old Testament passages (often from Isaiah) and two New Testament passages (mostly from the Gospels). The readings from the first Sunday focus on the hope the Father provides, the second Sunday focuses on His peace, the third Sunday on His joy (red candle), the last Sunday on His love, and on Christmas there is no specific theme, but everything points to the all-powerful Prince of Peace (white candle).

On each day of December until the 25th, Rose, Grace, or Josiah opens a window in an Advent calendar during or after dinnertime. Sometimes some arguing takes place concerning who will open the window, and I try to remember that I'm simply being given an opportunity to teach about the Son of Man. Unfortunately, I do not always pass the test. Last year we started reading Ray Pritchard's Let's Go Straight to Bethlehem every evening, and we'll continue using this solid Advent devotional.

After I read the devotional, we might discuss it a little before Megan reminds us of what we can pray for. Rose starts off the prayers, and I am always the last to pray. We pray about what we learned during the devotional, we praise our Father for who He is and how He blesses us, we pray for others, and we confess our sins. Even Josiah takes part although sometimes he has trouble focusing. I cut him a bit of slack since he just turned four; however, I'll be expecting way more from him when he's the big five.

So there you have it - Wickersham family devotionals during the Advent season. What about music? We need to work on that, and I'll be giving it some serious thought in the next month. Below are some links that can help you worship our Wonderful Counselor during this Advent season. Merry Christmas from the Wickershams!

desiringGod Advent resources

The Gospel Coalition Why Celebrate Advent?

Reviewing Ray Pritchard's Let's Go Straight to Bethlehem

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Saturday, November 28, 2015

12 Ways Tianjin Transpo Has Changed During My 12+ Years Here

1. When I arrived in Tianjin in 2003, most of the taxis were red compacts and not the roomier turquoise Toyotas that we have now. 5 RMB and not 9 RMB ($1.40) was the starting fare.
2. We used to be able to hail a banana yellow van called a miandi. I think they lacked shocks, but I liked how you could throw your bike in the bumpy ride.
3. Today I usually use my iPhone to get a private driver and pay with a credit card. Now I don't ever have to be concerned about not getting a taxi and whether I have the RMB for the trip.
4. Back in the day, there were far fewer vehicles on the road, and almost every car was an expensive black German sedan. You see lots more color and car styles on the road nowadays.
5. Because Tianjin has so many cars on the road, it takes us longer to get to the train station than it does to take a train to Beijing.
6. I once took a three-hour train from Beijing to Tianjin for less than 10 RMB ($1.25 in 2003). Today a BJ to TJ bullet train ride takes less than 25 minutes.
7. Once in a while, we would see donkeys pulling carts of watermelon on the big roads. That is definitely a thing of the past.
8. Bikes used to be everywhere, and no one had electric bikes. E-bikes are now common on the road and bikes less so. A few bike riders might have expensive Giant mountain bikes.
9. We didn't ever see motor bikes, but now we occasionally see motorcycles. We have a Harley dealership just around the corner.
10. Prior to my motorbike purchase four years ago, we owned a sanlunche (three-wheel vehicle). Unfortunately, these electric tricycles are no longer permitted in Tianjin without special permission.
11. I once rode a bus that had a hole in the floor allowing me to see the road from a new angle. Today many city buses have comfortable bucket seats, TVs, and air conditioning.
12. Tianjin has several subway lines that are cheap, comfortable, and convenient. The subway lines didn't exist or were being renovated when I arrived twelve years ago.

To read more about Tianjin's crazy mega growth and change over the years, click here.

A bicycle repairman near my first apartment - April 2004

My Amazing Four-Year-Old Foosball Player

My four-year-old Josiah has become quite the foosball player. Recently he has surprisingly defeated a few adults who have agreed to his foosball challenges, and this afternoon one of Grace's fourth-grade friends became his latest victim. Although Josiah hasn't scored more than two goals against me in a match, he can claim being ahead of me in a couple of matches. This is something many TIS middle schoolers would like to be able to say. Josiah's foosball skills have surprised me not only because he's a four-year-old who can barely say foosball, but because he competes with only one hand. I don't know why this should surprise me when I've seen so many people with missing limbs do amazing things.

Sometimes I see others stare at Josiah because he's missing his left hand. A couple of days ago a little kid grabbed Josiah's sleeve and was confused as to why Josiah only had one hand. A little over a week ago one curious girl asked why Josiah was missing a hand. I'm sure Josiah is having these kinds of experiences much more than I'm aware of and that he'll continue to face these tests as he gets older. The dad in me wants to protect Josiah from these awkward moments, but I know this is all part of the Father's plan. I'm thankful that our Father's love for Josiah is far greater than my love could ever be. God is good, and His love endures forever. I'm also thankful that Josiah is finding success as a foosball player, and I look forward to the day (not anytime soon) when he starts beating his pops.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" Romans 8:15

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ten Things I'm Thankful For

1. I have a job (that I enjoy). Nearly 8 million Americans are unemployed.

2. I have a home (with heat and hot water). Over 500,000 Americans are homeless.

3. I have friends (that pray and laugh with me). Loneliness affects 60 million Americans.

4. I have a family (that supports and loves me). There are 20 million orphans in the world.

5. I have insurance (to help pay for great medical care). 33 million Americans lack insurance.

6. I have a healthy body (which enables me to run and jump). Diarrheal diseases will kill over 2,000 kids today.

7. I have Internet access (to show me what is happening in the world). Billions are excluded from the online domain.

8. I have an education (that gives me access to countless opportunities). 775 million adults are functionally illiterate.

9. I have issues (that show me my weaknesses and how much I need Him). 1/3 of the world's seven billion people claim to follow the Son of Man.

10. I have the love of the Father (giving me purpose and everlasting life). Do you know His love?

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thursday, October 29, 2015

What If Your Daughters Weren't Soccer Players?

I'm so thankful Rose and Grace like to play the sport I grew up playing. I like taking them to summer soccer camps, teaching them how to perform sweet soccer moves, and watching soccer videos on YouTube with them. Occasionally people ask me how I would feel if my daughters didn't enjoy playing the beautiful game. Of course, soccer provides me an extra connection with Rose and Grace, but I would be totally fine if my daughters weren't soccer players. Contrary to what some t-shirts say, soccer isn't my world. I'm thankful Rose can even run considering she was born with spina bifida. I'm thankful Grace doesn't tell her coaches they suck like her dad did when he was in elementary school. I want Rose and Grace to pursue healthy activities that interest them - activities in which they can give the Father all the glory. I don't care if they race go-karts, show pigs, or build legos. I just want them to live a life pleasing to Him. Having daughters that play soccer is just icing on the cake. There will be a day when we'll no longer be able to kick a ball, but I'm confident that soccer will be alive and well in our new home. I look forward to that day we'll play spectacular soccer with our glorified bodies.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

This summer we saw Indy Eleven compete against the New York Cosmos.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Six Deep Questions My Sixth Graders Ask Every Year

I earned my educator's license in 1995 and although I've taught elementary and high school students, most of my teaching experience has been with sixth graders. I really, really like this age group. Why? Sixth graders still have some elementary in them so they often get easily engaged in the classroom, and they have some critical thinking skills that I can help shape. I also like how sixth graders never get tired of toilet humor. It's the best of both worlds - a year of change and transition that be both challenging and fun.

Every year my sixth graders ask some enormous questions that most are afraid to ask or don't think to ask. Below are six of those questions. I am so thankful to be in this super important position to tackle hard questions with young people. I ask that you would lift me up as I assist parents in training up their children. It's not something I take lightly, and I need all of the help I can get.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1

1. Did God choose us or do we choose Him?
2. How can Judas be held responsible for betraying the Son of Man if this was part of the Father's plan?
3. What happens to those who never hear about the Son of Man?
4. Why doesn't the Father just force us to love Him?
5. Why doesn't the Son Man end all suffering and come back right now?
6. Why were Adam and Eve created if it was known they would sin?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Reviewing John Seyfarth's Human Resource Leadership For Effective Schools

Human Resource Leadership For Effective Schools was one my required M.Ed. textbooks at CIU. It consists of 14 chapters which are outlined below.

1. Human Resources Leadership and Effective Schools
2. Planning for Staffing Needs
3. Evaluating and Selecting Applicants
4. Selecting Administrative and Support Personnel
5. Motivation of Personnel
6. Induction
7. Professional Development for Educational Personnel
8. Evaluating Employee Performance
9. Compensation and Rewards
10. Creating Productive Work Environments
11. Legal Issues in Human Resources
12. Collective Bargaining in Schools
13. Managing Conflict in Schools
14. Termination and Reduction in Force

This 300-page book uses the latest research, provides real-life applications, and emphasizes the relationship of the decisions of human resource leadership to student learning effectiveness. The end of each chapter contains a nice summary, a few suggested activities, several online resources, some case studies, and numerous references. Although the book is an excellent resource for school principals (e.g., classes, meetings, workshops), it's ridiculously overpriced. I recommend purchasing a used copy, renting the book, going to the library, or locating a foreign or online edition that could be much, much cheaper.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Reviewing John Piper's Does God Desire All To Be Saved?

Does God Desire All To Be Saved? That is an absolutely massive question that many have pondered over the years, but few have grappled with the question with others. We often simply want light-hearted conversations and have a fear of offending people. The question begs to be addressed though, and the answer is available to us.

Chancellor Piper helps us see it in the Scriptures through his short book, Does God Desire All To Be Saved?. Does our Heavenly Father desire for all of mankind to be saved from His holy wrath and a life of eternal torment in Hell despite choosing only some to be saved unconditionally? Yes. Isn't that a contradiction? No. How is that even possible? Many tough questions are addressed throughout the book, and regardless of your theological bent, you'll do plenty of thinking.

When you don't include the table of contents, acknowledgments, a note on resources, and the Scripture index, John Piper's Does God Desire All To Be Saved? is only 45 pages. The book is divided into an introduction and four chapters entitled:

1. My Aim
2. Illustrations of Two Wills in God
3. How Extensive is the Sovereign Will of God?
4. Does It Make Sense?

If you've read Piper's The Pleasures of God or Schreiner and Ware's books, The Grace of God and Still Sovereign, you might recognize portions of Does God Desire All To Be Saved?. This book is a revised and expanded version of material published in those books. Chancellor Piper handles the sensitive topics with grace and truth, and if you are up for grappling with the God of the universe, I recommend getting the book.

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3-4

Friday, September 18, 2015

Reviewing Collaborative Marriage Skills ( Couple Communication I)

Collaborative Marriage Skills is a 143-page book Megan and I used in a small group several years ago. This fifth edition was published in 2007 and consists of five chapters:

1. Choosing Communication Styles
2. Identifying Issues
3. Using Your Awareness Wheel
4. Applying the Listening Cycle
5. Mapping Issues

The book contains many charts and diagrams and is organized well. Key words are often italicized, have bold red or black letters, or are part of a bulleted list. We used a version of the book that doesn't have Scripture; however, everyone in our group was Christian so we integrated the Good Book into our discussions.

Collaborative Marriage Skills is very practical and can be used by both Christian and non-Christian couples. You'll get the most out of the book by taking notes in it and reading and discussing the material with others. Although Collaborative Marriage Skills did not solve all of our marriage problemos, I recommend it if you desire to better resolve conflict and enjoy your spouse.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Reviewing Stephen Altrogge's Game Day for the Glory of God: A Guide for Athletes, Fans, and Wannabes

With my increased role in coaching this past year, I decided to read Stephen Altrogge's Game Day For the Glory of God. Stephen Altrogge blogs at The Blazing Center, a blog I frequent from time to time and is the author of several books including Create and My Friend, My Hero, My Dad.

I enjoyed Game Day For the Glory of God more than Create (4.5/5 stars - 66 Amazon reviews), and I found it to be solid and making me smile at times, much like Altrogge's blog. Game Day For the Glory of God is 128 pages and is divided into the following seven chapters:

1. A Life for the Glory of God
2. The Source of All Talent
3. The Joy of Sports
4. Game Day Priorities
5. Winners and Losers
6. Parents, Children, and the Glory of God
7. Tying It All Together

The book was published in 2008 and Altrogge is from Pennsylvania so you may not recognize all of the sports references if you are young and from a country outside the States. Regardless of that, I recommend the book to any Christian who desires to have a biblical understanding of watching, playing, or coaching sports. Game Day For the Glory of God is a theological sound and enjoyable read that is sure to bless many coaches, athletes, and sports fans.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Reviewing John Piper's The Dangerous Duty of Delight

John Piper's The Dangerous Duty of Delight is a condensed version of his classic, Desiring God (1986). Those who know me will not find it surprising that I highly recommend both books (I've read more than 15 of Chancellor Piper's books). The second edition of The Dangerous Duty of Delight was released in 2011 with the following subtitle: Daring to Make God Your Greatest Desire. I read the original edition (2001) which was released with this subtitle: The Glorified God and The Satisfied Soul. The 2001 edition consists of less than 100 pages that are divided into the following nine chapters:

Chapter 1: Treating Delight As Duty Is Controversial
Chapter 2: Glorify God by Enjoying Him Forever
Chapter 3: Affections Are Not Optional
Chapter 4: Pursuing Pleasure Undermines Pride and Self-Pity
Chapter 5: Pursue Your Joy in the Joy of the Beloved
Chapter 6: What Does It Mean for Worship?
Chapter 7: What Does It Mean for Marriage?
Chapter 8: What Does It Mean for Money?
Chapter 9: What Does It Mean for Missions?

In The Dangerous Duty of DelightPiper reminds us how all of us have a longing that can't be satisfied from coaching victories, praise from our colleagues, traveling to international locations, or even spending time with our loved ones. Our hearts are restless until we fulfill our duty to delight in the one true Object of human desire - God Almighty. If we fulfill this duty, our attitudes toward church services, our mates, homes, and very purpose in life can radically change.

If you're a Christian looking for a solid book that is easy to understand, check out The Dangerous Duty of Delight. If you're not a Christian but are open to reading a short book not short on Scripture, check out The Dangerous Duty of Delight. Outside of the Bible, no author has blessed me more than John Piper and perhaps he can do the same for you.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Happy Patrick of Ireland Day IV

Tomorrow is March 17th so that means it's St. Patrick's Day. Like most Americans, I grew up not ever knowing who St. Patrick was and why we celebrate the Feast of St. Patrick. I just made sure I always wore something green on March 17th so I wouldn't get pinched. Odd. If you're interested in learning about this great man of God, click one of the links below or watch the short video. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Patrick: Missionary to Ireland by George Grant (Ligonier Ministries)

Patrick of Ireland by Reid Monaghan

Remember St. Patrick by David Mathis (desiringGod)

St. Patrick Knew All About Human Trafficking by Clint Humfrey (National Post)

The Life and Mission of St. Patrick by the Crossway Staff

Who Was St. Patrick? by Kevin DeYoung (The Gospel Coalition)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

"Three Adoptions? You're So Good, Wick."

"You're So Good, Wick." It's something I hear from time to time. Typically I'm told this when people find out I've adopted three children. Although I'm tempted to tell others that they're so right, that I'm really a nice guy, I usually tell them that I'm actually bad - downright wicked bad. If others knew all of the evil things I've thought of, said, and done, I would never want to show my face anywhere. Any good seen in me isn't me, that is the Spirit's work in me. He's good, and He's the one producing the good.

I've adopted three Chinese children not because I'm good, but because this is what I've been called to do. It's a beautiful calling that God has blessed me with tremendously. Although I taught at a children's home in Indiana and occasionally visited orphans in Korea before Megan and I got married, little did I know how much adoption would impact my life. Not all are called to adopt; however, all believers should be involved in adoption in some way or another. Some are called to visit orphanages, foster children, donate finances to adoption causes, intercede for orphans, and/or read adoption material. Believers should all be involved in adoption care to point to the Father who adopts us and to bring Him the glory.

If you're interested in learning more about adoption, below are some great links that can get you thinking how you help children who are without parents. Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Psalm 82:7

Adoption Guide
Adoption Resources
Financing Your Adoption
Tianjin ICCO

My children - Grace Noel, Josiah Lee, and Rosalie

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Reviewing Ella K. Lindvall's The Bible In Pictures For Toddlers

The Bible In Pictures For Toddlers contains 70 Bible stories (36 from the Old Testament) and is designed for children ages 1-4. Award-winning author Ella K. Lindvall certainly has the credentials to write such a book. She is a mother, has taught kindergarten and first grade, and has written other Bibles for children. There are many positives to the 144-page book. They include...

  • It's a small book that a toddler can hold.
  • It has a slightly padded cover.
  • A foreword and table of contents are included.
  • The colorful pictures are very kid-friendly and found on every page. Almost everyone is happy - even the monkeys during the flood.
  • The stories and their titles are short and use simple words (e.g., God Makes People, Ruth is Kind).
  • Every story has Bible references.
  • Many of the stories ask questions (e.g., Do you share?, Where is the lady?).
  • Difficult topics are gently addressed (e.g., sacrificing animals, disobedience, the destruction of a city, war, Satan).
  • It shows the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of Man.
There are several aspects of the book that some people may not like such as...

  • Only on one page do we see people of different ethnicities. Apparently, Adam and Eve, Egyptians, angels, the children the Son of Man loves and the people He feeds are all white. I really do love white people (I'm married to one, and I'm half white); however, updated illustrations would make this book much better.
  • The author states that God no longer talks out loud to people.
  • Only three magi are shown.
  • John the Baptist is pouring water on the Son of Man's head during His baptism.
  • The Son of Man turns water into juice and not wine. Because I'm a little boy I'll take juice over wine any day, but let's not change what the Bible says.
  • The book ends with Acts 16:25-31. What about Romans to Revelation
  • There is no mention of Hell.
Despite what I've mentioned above, I have absolutely no problemo reading this book to my Chinese son. I believe The Bible In Pictures For Toddlers will bless us tremendously, and any theological differences or literary criticisms I have can be addressed as we discuss the contents of the book. 

to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. Romans 16:27

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Reviewing Charles Spurgeon's All of Grace

Charles Spurgeon, the "Prince of Preachers," was a Reformed Baptist preacher who lived from 1834 to 1892. All of Grace was his best selling book and written just seven years before his death. Although the wording in the 20-chapter book is clearly not that of today's American, All of Grace is a gospel presentation that can be easily understood. Despite being a believer for nearly 14 years, it was good for me to be reminded of how I am not saved by my works, but by the Father's grace alone. I must preach the gospel to myself on a daily basis and Spurgeon helps with that. Spurgeon provides excellent illustrations, logic, stories, and Scripture in an effort to reach people for the Son of Man. I am thankful to have read this book and must do a better job of reading books that have stood the test of time. I wholeheartedly recommend this classic to both mature believers and inquisitive nonbelievers. Below are the chapter titles.

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

1. To You
2. What Are We At?
3. God Justifieth The Ungodly
4. "It Is God That Justifieth"
5. "Just and the Justifier"
6. Concerning Deliverance From Sinning
7. By Grace Through Faith
8. Faith
9. How May Faith Be Illustrated?
10. Why Are We Saved by Faith?
11. Alas! I Can Do Nothing!
12. The Increase of Faith
13. Regeneration and the Holy Spirit.
14. "My Redeemer Liveth"
15. Repentance Must Go with Forgiveness
16. How Repentance is Given
17. The Fear of Final Falling
18. Confirmation
19. Why Saints Persevere
20. Close

Reviewing R.C. Sproul's The Lightlings

I purchased The Lightlings through Amazon China, and it's the second book by R.C. Sproul that I've read to my children. In The Lightlings, Dr. Sproul tells us the biblical story of redemption in a way that is both enjoyable and deep. It's an allegorical tale where a grandfather tells his grandson about fairylike creatures who shine brightly. One day these creatures disobey their Creator and King which brings them into a great darkness and shows them their need for the Light. The story ends with the boy and his grandfather having a conversation.

The Lightlings consists of 30 pages with more than half of the pages being illustrations that are a mix of fantasy and realism. The last three pages consist of 13 questions with Bible references that children can be asked in an effort to help them better understand the story. Although the book is meant for elementary students, I believe many of my sixth-grade students would enjoy hearing me read The Lightlings to them. It's a meaningful book, and I recommend it to anyone who desires to help young children better understand what life is all about.

God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reviewing R.C. Sproul's Can I Be Sure I'm Saved?

I thought I was saved when I was a teenager, and for about a decade I told others I was a believer when it just wasn't true. I was baptized at a small Southern Baptist church when I was 22, but it wasn't until I was 26 years old when I became a bona fide believer in the Risen One. I was confused about my salvation for many years, but the Father does not want us to be confused. The god of this age does. The Father wants us to be clear about whether we belong to Him and if we're going to Heaven when we pass away (or when His Son returns).

2 Peter 1:10 states, Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. Confidently knowing where you stand with the Son of Man and what He'll say on Judgment Day can be known right now. If you struggle with doubts concerning whether you truly know the Prince of Peace, whether you have eternal life, whether you'll be going to Heaven, I recommend reading R.C. Sproul's Can I Be Sure I'm Saved?In this 70-page booklet, R.C. Sproul once again provides solid teaching in a logical fashion. Below are the titles of the five chapters and simple summaries.
  1. The Struggle for Assurance - What is assurance?
  2. Four Kinds of People - Two are saved and two are not
  3. False Assurance - What are the dangers?
  4. Gaining True Assurance - How can we get assurance of salvation?
  5. The Source of Full Assurance - Do you love Him?
Don't be confused about whether you're going to Heaven or Hell. If you are, spend an hour reading Sproul's Can I Be Sure I'm Saved? and hopefully, you can have that peace that surpasses all understanding.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, John 1:12

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Story of the Wickersham Adoptions

For the most part, the post below was written 1.5 years ago by Megan.

Our Father has blessed us with three pretty cool kids, all brought to us by the miracle of adoption. Their stories are different, and yet through each story, we see clearly our Father’s faithfulness and care. 

Our middle child, Grace Noel, was the first to join the Wickersham clan. In September of 2005 Grace was brought to her county’s orphanage as a newborn, and she lived in foster care until the day we traveled to Hubei Province to meet her. Grace was nine months when we first met her and seemed to have been well cared for by her foster family. She was developmentally on track, emotionally resilient, chubby, and alert. Although Grace was quite reserved in her first few days with us, by the end of our first week together she was already giggling and wrestling with me. In the following months, she bonded quickly to us, and her transition seemed nearly seamless. Grace is now nine and in the 3rd grade. She is bright and creative, forever performing skits for her family to watch. She enjoys school and playing outside on her scooter or on rollerblades.

Our oldest daughter, Rosalie, was brought to the Tianjin orphanage when she was just two months old. Not long after, she underwent surgery to repair spinal meningocele. She spent most of her early years in foster care, and then in December of 2006 joined our family as our own foster daughter. She was four and a half. Because the circumstances of her arrival in our family were unusual, the legal process of the adoption itself was complex and lengthy. Dad truly moved mountains during this period of time, removing obstacles and granting us favor in the hearts and minds of those in positions of influence. He also graciously made a way for her to remain in our care for the entire duration of this process! In May of 2010, when Rose was eight years old, her adoption was completed. Finally, the law reflected what we had felt in our hearts and been experiencing as a family for years; she was our daughter. Rose is now 12 and one of my 6th-grade students. She is fun-loving and hangs out with a diverse group of people. Rose especially enjoys sports and participates in soccer, volleyball, and basketball.

Our youngest child, Josiah Lee, joined our family in January of 2012. Josiah spent the first year of his life in an orphanage and was 14 months old when our family traveled to Henan Province to meet him. Although he was a bit out of sorts in our first hours together, it wasn’t long before he began to show his charm! In those early weeks, we saw a boy ready to laugh, entertain, and make friends wherever he went.  He is truly a performer at heart, happiest when he has the attention of an adoring crowd, which he’s found in his two big sisters! He’s been with us for two years now, and it’s impossible to imagine life without him.

Our family has been shaped, blessed, and transformed by adoption. We have certainly been blessed and changed through the gift of our three children, as well as through the responsibility and joy of parenting. Our family has experienced the joy-filled side of adoption. However, it is the loss and pain inherent in each adoption story that has been the place of seeing the good news more clearly. As parents, we are thankful for the way that our children’s stories have caused us to enter into shades of loss and pain that we never experienced in our own childhoods. We are humbled at the way our Father has used us to be a part of His restoration and redemption. Through the gift of these three beautiful children, we have been given countless opportunities to reflect on earthly adoption and its parallels in the spiritual realm, as we are all – by his great mercy - adopted children in the family of God.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

2014 Indy Eleven Soccer Camp - Westfield/Grand Park

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Beautiful Game: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

I first began kicking a soccer ball as a seven-year-old when living in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil. Since that time, the beautiful game has contributed to countless wonderful memories for nearly thirty-five years. It has been a great deal of fun competing against such talented players and teams both as a player and coach. I truly hope to continue to add to those memories for many years to come.

Kicking a ball has also resulted in numerous serious injuries for me - head contusions, sprained ankles, hairline fractures, and torn ligaments and cartilage. I have never played professionally, and I really don't know how professional athletes do it game in and game out. I had a second ACL reconstruction this past summer, and it certainly hasn't always been a rip-roaring time.

Although my right knee feels slightly funky and I've lost the afterburner speed I once had, I'm thankful I can still step on the field (albeit a less competitive one) and make some things happen. I'm thankful that I can make my sixth-grade boys laugh when I whiz a ball by one of them or make third-grade girls clap when I juggle a ball with my head, shoulders, and knees. I look forward to the day when I will be able to do these things without any kind of pain or fear of injury. I look forward to the day when I can play the beautiful game in that brand-spankin' new body playing in that brand-spankin' new home. It's going to be nothing short of awesome.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. 2 Corinthians 4:17

U13 TIS Lady Eagles - Fall 2014 (7 wins, 3 losses, 6 ties)