Leadership Institute, Here We Come

A few months ago, we wrote about attending Leadership Institute, a 2-day conference hosted by The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (COR). Well, the has come for this event.

Tomorrow, we travel to Kansas City (we’ll return Saturday). We’re excited about attending this event with a group of pastors from four districts in our conference.

While we look forward to spending a few days in Kansas City at COR, unfortunately, Ethan will not be with us (thankfully, though, Grammy and Pappy are going to stay with Ethan here on his familiar turf while we’re away). Were it not for this being the first time being apart 3 nights, we’d be a lot more excited about this trip! 😥

But we expect this event to contribute to our ongoing personal development, and we want to share the experience with as many as we can. So we invite you to follow along here on the blog over the next few days as we reflect on some of the things that impact us most.

More than likely, we expect to publish posts (as we’re able) (1) Thursday night, (2) Friday night and/or Saturday morning, and (3) sometime later after we return home and have a chance to process the whole experience.

As always, we invite you contribute to the conversation by clicking on the “comments” link underneath any post you wish to comment on, then fill out the form to submit your comment.

Well, let’s get started!

Late Summer Photos

Ethan is now over 15 months old, and he’s growing. Here are a few photos from the past month …

Gated Community

For the first couple of months in our new home, we used boxes to block the staircases, to keep Ethan from climbing them. It was a bit of a hassle, but it worked, usually. We now have gates installed that work well — at least until Ethan figures out how to open them! 🙂

Do You Know How to Feed Yourself?

Watching Ethan grow is teaching us a lot about human development. One significant area is watching Ethan learn to feed himself. Ethan has made a lot of progress in the seven months he’s been with us, but he also has a long way to go.

These days, Ethan can be trusted to feed himself with a fork or spoon after *we* have selected the portion; he cannot be trusted to choose his own portions (yet). When we let him choose, he grabs handfuls of Cheerios or whatever he’s eating and stuffs them in his mouth.

Over the course of time, Ethan will eventually learn to feed himself and make healthy decisions about what he eats.

Well, I’m sure that’s obvious to you. But what doesn’t appear to be as obvious to many Christians is the necessity for Christ-followers to learn to feed themselves. I believe there is a serious lack of development in the Church, and as a result, many of us are undernourished/malnourished. Too many people don’t know how to feed themselves. And too many people depend on others to feed them (e.g., pastors, teachers, small group leaders, etc.).

While we all need to be fed by others at times (pastors, etc.), each of us is ultimately responsible to feed ourselves! As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are learners (“disciple” means learner). When we stop learning, we stop growing as followers of Jesus. Christ-followers must be self-feeders!

As a pastor, I certainly want to feed people. But more than that, I want to teach people how to feed themselves. I remember reading a great statement in a book in the early 1990s (I just don’t remember which book) that gets at this idea of equipping people …

Great pastors don’t build great churches. Great pastors build great people, and great people build great churches.

Have you learned to feed yourself? How do you feed yourself spiritually?

Life Realignment :: Tank-Filling Activities

One final piece to the “life realignment” series is tank-filling activities. Tank-filling activities, as you can probably guess, are activities that “fill your tank.” 🙂

The idea for this comes from a lesson Wayne Cordeiro, senior pastor of New Hope Christian Center in Hawaii, taught at the 2006 Willow Creek Leadership Summit (see this page for CD/DVD product info). Cordeiro highlighted the importance of engaging in activities that fill your tank.

About a year ago, Joleen and I put together a list of activities that fill our tanks, things like hiking, biking, watching movies, etc. Since then, we’ve both finished writing dissertations, we’ve become parents of a baby boy, and we’ve moved to new ministries — all of which has brought a lot of challenges to our list.

As we move forward, we’ll be able to continue some of the activities (watching movies), but other activities may have to be adjusted (hiking, hiking). Part of finding our new rhythm involves figuring out what activities we can practice that will fill our tanks as individuals and as a family.

One of the main points Cordeiro made was that the busier you get, and the more intense life gets, the more tank-filling activities you need to engage in. Unfortunately, most of us do the opposite. Too often, we allow the tank-filling activities to get squeezed out when the going gets tough. When that happens, we get drained, our tanks get empty, and we have little or nothing to live on, let alone give for others.

But when our tanks are full, we’re more equipped to live full, healthy lives, and to be able to give more for others. That’s what life and ministry are all about!

What activities fill your tank?

This is the final post in this series on Life Realignment. Previous posts include Nutrition, Exercise, and Rest.

Central Conference Pension Initiative

We’ve listed several causes that are important to us, causes that we support financially (either occasionally, annually, or monthly).

One of the recent additions to our list is the Central Conference Pension Initiative (of The United Methodist Church), which according to the website …

is a long-term solution that provides retirement financial security for dedicated church leaders and surviving spouses who would otherwise have little or nothing.

We’ve made a commitment to give to this fund monthly for the next several years. We want to do our part to help those in other counties who have served the church but have no resources for retirement. This is also part of our desire to shape a trustee culture, which we wrote about in the days before we went to Korea to get Ethan.

Causes we’ve previously written about include UMCOR, Operation Christmas Child, World Vision (and here), Nothing But Nets (also here and here).

Life Realignment :: Rest

Our day off is a good time to think about rest. This post is part of a series on Life Realignment — a series about finding our new rhythm, which we’re finding necessary since bringing Ethan home and moving to new ministries, all in recent months. (If you missed the previous posts, they’re here: Nutrition and Exercise).

In biblical terms, there’s the word “sabbath,” which means to pause or to stop. Sabbath comes from a root word meaning to catch your breath.

There are a few phrases I’ve collected over the years that get at this idea of rest …

“Ruthlessly eliminate hurry.” John Ortberg wrote a piece for ChristianityToday.com several years ago that continues to challenge me several years later.

“Unbusy pastor.” This phrase was a chapter title in Eugene Peterson’s book, The Contemplative Pastor, one of the most impacting books I’ve ever read (I read it in the early/mid 1990s when I was working on my M.Div.). As I recall (and it has been a while!), the phrase basically means that although you’re busy on the outside, you don’t have to be busy on the inside (at least that’s how I’ve always understood/remembered it).

“Planned neglect.” I’m not sure where I heard this phrase, but the idea is that you have to neglect some things (even good things) to focus on the most important things. IOW, your “to-not-do” list is at least as important as your “to-do” list! It’s about learning to saying no.

“Choosing to cheat.” Similar to “planned neglect,” this phrase comes from the title of Andy Stanley’s book, which I’ve written about previously (Choosing to Cheat 1.0 and Choosing to Cheat 2.0).

Well, we certainly haven’t mastered those concepts, but they’re helpful targets.

Another strategy I’ve found helpful comes from Rick Warren who suggests that people (he usually teaches this to pastors) …

  • Divert daily.
  • Withdraw Weekly.
  • Abandon Annually.

Essentially, we need to make time to disengage, and to rest, daily. We must also take time to rest weekly (day off, sabbath). And we must take some extended time off (vacation) periodically (at least annually).

For a little more detail on Rick’s teaching, see Mark Beeson’s blog. I especially like Rick’s quote listed there:

Most pastors are like a poor photograph … over-exposed and under-developed.

Well, we don’t want to be either of those things. We want to be spiritually healthy, and the only way to do that is to find our rhythm, knowing when to engage and when to disengage.

No one did that better than Jesus …

But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. (Luke 5.16)

We’ve always said we do pretty well with vacations and our weekly day off but we struggle with the other 6 days of the week. That struggle is only made more challenging, and more important (!), with Ethan in our lives. That just means we have to work a bit harder to live healthy lives!

“Adoptive Families” Magazine

We subscribe to Adoptive Families magazine. It’s a great resource for, well, adoptive families.

This week, our blog was added to their list of adoption-related blogs. Scroll down to “Asia” under “International Adoption Blogs” to see the listing of our blog. Check out other blogs listed there, too. (We’ve added this link to our blogroll in the sidebar, which rotates on each page refresh.)

We trust that we will be able to be a helpful resource for those considering international adoption and for families who have already adopted!

Life Realignment :: Exercise

I am working my way through a series of posts called Life Realignment (see also Routines). It’s a series of thoughts about finding our new rhythm, which is necessary since bringing Ethan home and moving to new ministries in recent months. So far, I’ve written about Nutrition. Now, I want to write about exercise.

Joleen and I have always tried to be active. We used to enjoy hiking and biking, but we haven’t done those since Ethan has been with us. We will eventually get back to doing some hiking and biking sometime, though.

We also were pretty consistent in lifting weights a couple days per week at home. For the last few years, we followed a strategy outlined in Body by God by Ben Lerner (the book also deals with nutrition, stress management, and time management).

Virtually all of our exercise since February, though, has been walking with Ethan in a stroller. In Mooresville, we mostly walked in the neighboring Mooresville Cemetery. In Clearfield, we have more options — anywhere in town as well as the local rails-to-trails walking/biking trail.

Beyond regular exercise, we also try to be conscious about other things, like parking near the back of parking lots, taking the stairs instead of the elevator. We climb a lot of stairs at home, from the play room in the basement to the upstairs bedrooms.

Of course, Ethan has added a lot of activity to our lives. Ethan weighed 22 pounds when we got him. That was a big adjustment in itself!

As we find our new rhythm, we hope to continue walking, and get back to hiking and/or biking again someday. We’ll have to be especially intentional once winter hits. We also want to start lifting weights again, at some point, as well.

We’ve always found exercise, especially walking, hiking, and biking to have a calming effect on us. There’s something about getting outdoors, breathing fresh air, and enjoying God’s creation!

“What’s That?”

Without question, Ethan’s most used words are in the phrase, “What’s that?” He asks that question over and over when we first see him each morning (and throughout the day).

Earlier this week, I thought I should try to count how many times he says it in the morning. So on Friday, I tried to keep up, but I lost count somewhere in the 30s. And that was in the first couple minutes!

Wanting to encourage curiosity, I often asked Ethan, “What’s that?” in our earliest days together. It was intentional. More than two months before we received Ethan, we wrote about the kind of culture we wanted to create in our home.

The second part of that series was on shaping a learning culture. In that post, we talked about curiosity, hunger for learning, and asking questions.

Watching Ethan observe the world around him is quite an amazing thing to experience!