Transition

You’ve probably heard people talk about mentally/emotionally gearing up for the return to work near the end of their vacation. Maybe you’ve experienced it.

I can’t speak for other professions or other types of work, but in ministry leadership, we don’t exactly get to lay down our call to ministry when we go on vacation. However, we try to limit talk about “work” when we go on vacation (partly because of the fact that we’re both pastors, we spend time talking about work when we’re not on vacation so vacation time is a time to focus on rest and renewal).

We generally do pretty well at that, but today was a day of transition. After a time of catching our breath and recalibrating our lives, we also began making the mental/emotional/spiritual transition back to the mission at hand (actually, tomorrow begins our second year in Clearfield). We come back hopefully more rested and ready to move forward in the work God has called us to do and to be the leaders God has called us to be!

Recalibration

Vacation isn’t just an opportunity to catch our breath, it’s also an important opportunity to recalibrate!

When I think of recalibration, I think of recalibrating a battery (e.g., a laptop or cell phone battery) — occasionally, you need to fully drain it and then recharge it (at least, that’s how I understand it). Colors on a computer monitor can be recalibrated.

Recalibrating is a form of resetting things back to their defaults, the way they were intended to be. For people, it’s about getting back to the basics of healthy living.

Today, we wrapped up our vacation. It has been a time of catching our breath and also recalibrating. On just about every vacation we’ve had, we always seem to talk about getting back to the basics of taking care of ourselves in our lives and ministries (although I’m not sure how much good it does 😉 ).

Recalibration has always been important, though. It’s important to our ministries, of course (when we’re drained, we have less to give/offer), and it’s always been important to our marriage. But, now with a child (and eventually a second child), it’s even more critical than ever that we learn to live in healthy ways.

Our primary challenge is finding — or scheduling — family time in the midst of our fluid schedules. Our schedules change from day to day and from week to week — one or both of us nearly always have (multiple) evening meetings during the week and those nights change from week to week. Our fluid schedules require that we be flexible and, at times, creative!

We’ve normally done well with vacations, and we’ve generally done a decent job with our days off (although we probably need to incorporate more “sabbath time” into those days) — it’s the other six days we need to recalibrate. The health and quality of our ministries, and more importantly, our family life, depends on us living in healthy ways!

So, in addition to the basics (e.g., time with God, reading for personal growth, etc.), here are a couple specific growing edges for us going forward …

  • Incorporate more sabbath time into our days off (of course, every day needs some sabbath time).
  • Schedule family time (and couple time) throughout the other six days.

In what areas do you need to do some recalibrating? What are you going to do about it?

Catching Our Breath

Our vacation, which started yesterday, is a time for catching our breath!

That’s especially true for this vacation. We’ve been through a whirlwind in the last few years that included both of us completing a doctor of ministry program, adopting our first child from Korea, and moving. In fact, completing and defending our dissertations, going to Korea to get Ethan, graduating from Asbury, and moving all took place during the first half of 2008!

And the whirlwind continues. We’re still transitioning as we complete our first year in Clearfield and we’re also preparing to adopt our second child from Korea.

Since we normally try to go on vacation in the spring, this vacation is a bit overdue, and we need to catch our breath!

Bonding 2.0

In a recent post about bonding, I referred to an article at adoptivefamilies.com, which includes the following statement …

Attachment and adoption seem inseparable to many parents. In fact, attachment is an ongoing process for all parents and children, one that generally takes from 10 and 14 months and continues to evolve over a child’s early years.

We can attest to that timeline. We’ve now had Ethan 16+ months, and even though he adapted well to the transition into our home (which changed locations when we moved four months after we brought him home from Korea), it is also true that our bonding has grown over the course of that time. In fact, in just the last couple months (at around month 14, ironically), we’ve noticed an even closer bond in Ethan with us.

Well, it’s been a great experience so far, and we look forward to growing even closer in the future. Of course, there will be new challenges in the months ahead as we welcome a second child into our family. But it’s all part of the adventure we’re on!

Intentional Faith Development 2.0

In my last post, I blogged reflections from Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Bishop Robert Schnase. In this post, I’ll share some practical ideas that are coming out of Centre Grove church council’s discussion of the reading.

Earlier this week, we talked about what we’re currently doing in the area of faith development (including Sunday school, occasional short-term studies, etc.), but we spent most of our time dreaming about what intentional faith development might look like for us. Specifically, we responded to the group activity that Bishop Schnase suggests in the book to …

outline a year’s worth of learning opportunities that you would like to attend if they were offered (78).

At first, several specific studies were named (e.g., the case for creation, etc.) but we also spent a good bit of time talking about various kinds of small groups and how we might get people involved in them.

The next day, three of us met together and we came up with a plan to help us be more intentional about faith development. In September, we are going to invite people to participate in The Essential 100 Challenge, which is a Bible reading program built around 100 selected passages of Scripture divided equally between the Old and New Testaments.

Along with the Bible reading program, we’re going to encourage people to participate in small groups (at church or in individual homes) beginning with ten weeks in the fall, which will take us through the Old Testament readings. In January, people will have the opportunity to continue in groups for the New Testament readings.

We have a few goals with this program: (1) to help people read the Bible consistently, (2) to give people a good overview of the Bible, and (3) to get people involved in small groups.

It’s a start. In our next discussion, we’ll talk about ways we can effectively cast the vision for this new ministry, as well as other ways we might practice intentional faith development beyond the next few months.

Intentional Faith Development 1.0

Centre Grove’s council has been reading, discussing, and acting on Bishop Robert Schnase‘s Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. So far, we have completed discussion of one of the practices (Radical Hospitality) and we recently started on a second (Intentional Faith Development).

In this chapter, Bishop Schnase stresses the importance of learning together in community. He writes …

Churches that practice Intentional Faith Development offer high quality learning experiences that help people understand Scripture, faith, and life in the supportive nurture of caring relationships (62).

Among the benefits of learning in community, Bishop Schnase suggests that …

Learning in community helps people explore possibilities that God may have for them that they never would have considered on their own (63).

Bishop Schnase notes that “Growing in Christ-likeness is the goal and end of the life of faith … This growth in Christ spans a lifetime” (64). Further, “The Christian faith is not static but dynamic. It requires cultivation” (64). I love the word cultivation. It’s a great way to understand the discipleship process Christ-followers engage in throughout their lives.

I like how Bishop Schnase describes Bible study. It reminds me of what I blogged recently in Eat This Book. Schnase writes …

Bible study is not just about self-improvement but about setting ourselves where God can shape us, intentionally opening ourselves to God’s Word and God’s call (65).

Bishop Schnase also challenges and reminds church leaders to personally engage in Bible study. It’s easy for church leaders to neglect their own personal spiritual growth by spending all their time in the Scriptures preparing sermons or Bible studies for others. Bishop Schnase writes …

Bible study changes churches. When church leaders take their own spiritual growth seiously and immerse themselves in the study of Scripture, in prayer, and fellowship, they understand the purpose of the church and the point of ministry differently (73).

Church leaders must be growing themselves in order to be effective in leading others. Bishop Schnase asks …

How can church leaders make good faith decisions for the congregation without proper grounding in the faith? (73).

Bishop Schnase closes the chapter on Intentional Faith Development reminding the reader that spiritual transformation is ultimately God’s work. Schnase writes …

No matter how dedicated our efforts, the transformation of human hearts and minds is God’s work through the Holy Spirit, and intentionally learning in community is our way of placing ourselves in the hands of God so that God can sculpt our souls and recreate us in the image of Christ (78).

The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and if we’re going to be faithful to God’s call, we must be intentional about developing faith in people.

In the next post in this series, I’ll blog some of the practical ideas Centre Grove is considering as we engage the concept of Intentional Faith Development.

Bonding

As we prepare for our second adoption, we’re again thinking about the importance of bonding, particularly in those first days, weeks, and months with the new baby.

Adoptive Families magazine has articles devoted to bonding. I think the article, Your Baby, Yourself, is especially helpful in talking about the importance (and challenges) of bonding for adoptive families.

Part of the article states …

… attachment is almost always a journey, not an instant event. It takes time to get to know your child, to develop the rhythm and confidence to parent. In these first days, it is vital that you take care of only the essentials—your partner and your baby. Avoiding other claims on your attention will enhance your ability to bond.

The article (as well as the section at the bottom of the page) includes some good tips (in bold) …

Limit visits. Your baby needs time to bond with you, unencumbered by distraction. Unplug the phone or leave a voice message if excited friends keep calling.

We received a similar tip from the pre-adoption classes we took as part of our home study in early 2007. The child (from another culture) experiences enough trauma without being bombarded with lots and lots of new people.

During our first weeks with Ethan, we did make the rounds to the churches we were serving while we were on parental leave. Ethan seemed to handle that well, but even in Korea, he was described as “a social little guy.” Still, we tried to limit his exposure to others in the earliest days.

Wear the baby in a chest carrier as much as possible.

We bought a baby carrier and took it with us to Korea. During our first hours with Ethan in Korea, we described it as the best baby-related investment we had made up to that point.

I will never forget carrying Ethan to E-mart in Seoul, Korea in the baby carrier on our first full day together. I remember him looking into my eyes, trying to figure out who in the world I was!

Become your baby’s primary provider of care, meeting all her needs yourself, to build trust. For now, encourage friends and relatives to leave the hugs and kisses to you.

Good advice, related to the first tip above. Limiting interaction with others, at least early on. Focus on bonding as a family.

Maintain your baby’s familiar routines as much as you can.

Our caseworker in Korea as well as the foster mother went to great lengths to tell us about Ethan’s routines. A lot of good that did! Ethan’s routines were completely different after we brought him home (for the better). In Korea, he was getting up during the night once or twice (here, after a week and a half adjusting to the new time zone, he began sleeping all night) and going to bed between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. (here, he usually goes to bed between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m., thankfully!).

Next time, we’ll listen to what they tell us, of course, but we’ll take it with a grain of salt!

Keep any clothes or blankets your baby came with for their soothing smell.

We also heard this in our pre-adoption classes. I think it’s good advice, but in Ethan’s case, I don’t think it applied. Ethan didn’t seem to be too attached to anything, in particular (the foster mother told us he loved his drinking cup, which leaked; he did, but he also didn’t have a problem switching to another cup). In fact, Ethan had no trouble switching formula (one of the three biggest challenges for Korean babies) or going from rice and broth to baby food.

Let a nurse hold your child for an injection, then you comfort her afterwards.

We have not heard this one before. I’m not sure how well that would’ve worked when we took Ethan to the doctor less than a week after bringing him home from Korea (the blood draw was especially difficult!). We may think about this one tomorrow as Ethan goes in for his two-year check-up where we expect him to his two-year vaccinations.

Anyway, we go into the second adoption with some bonding/parenting experience (that’s a big thing), but having a toddler at home will certainly add a new twist to the experience!

Radical Hospitality 4.0

While our conversation on Radical Hospitality is mostly behind us (Centre Grove church council), we’re still working on some of the practical steps (primarily adding directional signs, which have been completed, and revamping our welcoming ministry of ushers and greeters).

We’ve named our ministry of ushers and greeters “First Impressions Ministry” (not original with us). The goal of this ministry is, “Creating an environment where people experience God’s love!”

We are in the process of training our ushers and greeters (we asked ushers and greeters to attend one of three different sessions, with the last coming up this week).

First, we’re sharing with them why we’re revamping this ministry, specifically our discussion of Radical Hospitality. We walked through the following quote from Bishop Schnase’s book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

Christian hospitality refers to the active desire to invite, welcome, receive, and care for those who are strangers so that they find a spiritual home and discover for themselves the unending richness of life in Christ. It describes a genuine love for others who are not yet part of the faith community, an outward focus, a reaching out to those not yet known, a love that motivates church members to openness and adaptability, a willingness to change behaviors in order to accommodate the needs and receive the talents of newcomers.

We also try to give a sense of the need to be welcoming of all people. I think the following (slightly adapted) from Serving as a Church Greeter, by Leslie Parrott, is helpful in communicating who we need to be kind toward …

  • Kindness to new people who feel strange and don’t know their way around
  • Kindness to the elderly who increasingly feel alone
  • Kindness to the children who are outside their comfort zone
  • Kindness to mothers and fathers with babies in their arms and toddlers at their sides
  • Kindness to people who show up regularly at the same time at the same door every week
  • Kindness to people who have physical challenges
  • Kindness toward the pastor and staff, who sometimes need an advocate at the door
  • Kindness to people who don’t think they need it

After casting the vision for the First Impressions Ministry, we get into the practical details, which are really pretty simple, I think.

The Greeters serve outside the worship space (in our case, at the two entrances to the sanctuary and entrance from the parking lot). The Ushers serve inside the worship space seating newcomers and receiving the offering. We are asking them to …

  • Arrive early
  • Smile and be friendly
  • Introduce themselves and introduce newcomer to someone else
  • Be helpful (know location of restrooms, nursery, entrances/exits, specials needs, etc.)
  • Distribute welcome cards
  • Show people to their seats (Ushers)
  • Receive offering (Ushers)

We believe the development of our First Impressions Ministry will help us practice a more radical hospitality toward all people!

Eat This Book 1.0

A few months ago I wrote that I would read Eugene Peterson during Lent. Unfortunately, my reading got pushed out for a while out due to the work we had to do for commissioning (as Provisional Elders) and I’ve just recently gotten back to reading Peterson’s Eat This Book.

Usually, I read a book as quickly as I can so that I can get through as many books as possible (it’s hard to keep up with all the books I want to read!). But with this book, I’m reading a lot slower (Peterson’s stuff is usually pretty heavy/intense). So far, I’m going through each chapter three times, the first time without a highlighter, the second time with a highlighter, and the third time simply to review the statements I’ve highlighted.

Here are a few of the things I highlighted in the first three chapters …

The Christian Scriptures are the primary text for Christian spirituality … We grow in accordance with the revealed Word implanted in us by the Spirit (15).

What I want to call attention to is that the Bible is livable; it is the text for living our lives. It reveals a God-created, God-ordered, God-blessed world in which we find ourselves at home and whole (18).

These statements are pretty straightforward. If we, as Christ-followers, are going to grow, we’ve must be people of the Book.

Peterson describes eating the book as internalizing the Scriptures.

Eating a book takes it all in, assimilating it into the tissues of our lives. Readers become what they read. If Holy Scripture is to be something other than mere gossip about God, it must be internalized (20).

In our reading of this book we come to realize that what we need is not primarily informational, telling us things about God, but formational, shaping us into our true being (23-24).

Ultimately, everything is formational. Christ-followers, in order to grow more Christ-like, must ensure that they are being formed by God’s Word.

I also like how Peterson describes Bible reading as participatory.

Christian reading is participatory reading, receiving the words in such a way that they become interior to our lives, the rhythms, and images becoming practices of prayer, acts of obedience, ways of love (28).

Toward the end of chapter 3, Peterson offers quite a challenging statement for Christ-followers, and Christ-following leaders, in particular …

God and his ways are not what most of us think. Most of what we are told about God and his ways by our friends on the street, or read about him in the papers, or view on television, or think up on our own, is simply wrong. Maybe not dead wrong, but wrong enough to mess up the way we live (34-35).

To guard against misleading others, we must “eat the book” (i.e., God’s Word) — internalize it so that it becomes part of who we are. Internalizing God’s Word is especially important for leaders and communicators who have the potential to influence many people.

I look forward to continuing through the book. I’ll write another post or two as I make my way through it.

Ethan’s Fort

For Ethan’s birthday, we set up a place for him to play in the backyard — Ethan’s Fort. Ethan enjoyed helping Daddy build the fort. Now that it’s up, he enjoys climbing and sliding, as well as looking out over the fence into the outside world. It looks to be a favorite summer activity!