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