Memorial Day 2010

Spent the afternoon today at Grammy and Pappy’s in Williamsburg, PA.

Good holiday, but naps were scarce. Sarah had a short nap at Grammy and Pappy’s, but Ethan delayed his nap until the trip home; Sarah got a short nap on the way home, too.

The kids must be tired — so far, they’re sleeping through this evening’s thunderstorms!

Developing the Discipline of Determination

One of the main reasons I went all out in the Health Flex HealthMiles Challenge was simply to see what I could do and to put myself to the (physical and mental) test. Going all out every day required me to push through some challenges along the way, including …

  • Getting up 29 mornings between 5:00 and 6:00 and walking 10,000 in about 75 minutes (more or less).
  • Staying on track every day by constantly monitoring my progress and making sure I was on target. It was at least as much of a mental test as a physical one.
  • Working through occasional pain.
  • Four days devoted to the trip to Washington D.C, including at least 6 hours total travel time on Sunday and Wednesday as well as several hours of sitting Monday through Wednesday morning.

Life is like that. There will always be obstacles and challenges. We need determination to stick it out. It’s a discipline. We need to develop the discipline of determination, the ability to stick to it.

It’s wise to practice determination in the smaller things so that when we encounter the bigger things, we’ll have the determination to stick it out and to keep moving forward!

Question: Where do you need to develop the discipline of determination?

Cutting Through the Noise

When we were in Washington D.C. for the GBCS seminar last month, we met with a staffer in Senator Robert Casey’s office who, on a particular issue, said it was good to receive our input because they “hear so much noise,” much of it negative.

This idea has stuck with me. The noise describes all the stuff we see and hear that distracts us from our mission and keeps us from having peace.

Recently, it struck me that leaders must learn to cut through the noise in order to stay on task and lead with clarity.

Life is filled with noise now more than ever. In recent centuries, the amount of information available to us has dramatically increased through the printing press, radio, television, and most recently, the internet.

All of these things are tremendous developments, of course. But they’ve also increased the noise level. It’s our responsibility to cut through the noise to find those things that are most valuable so that we can stay on task and help others stay on task.

Here are a few challenges leaders face

  • Choosing what we take in and focus on (through reading, listening, etc.). With so many resources out there, it’s impossible to read them all. Leaders must learn to make good decisions about what they read/listen to.
  • Using social media wisely/effectively. With so many social media channels (forums, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), leaders must learn to use them wisely and efficiently.
  • Prioritizing Bible reading, praying, thinking, dreaming/visioning, etc.

Leaders must learn to handle the noise in their own lives. And, because we have a message to communicate and a mission to lead, leaders much also cut through the noise in other people’s lives!

To cut through the noise in other people’s lives, a leader’s communication must be clear, focused, concise, and passionate.

If a leader’s message isn’t clear, focused, concise, and passionate (i.e., from the heart), it just adds to the noise in people’s lives and will ultimately make little or no impact. This is why one-point preaching, which focuses on one point and building everything around it, is so important (not just for preaching!). I’ve been using this approach for four years, and it’s still a constant challenge to maintain focus!

In addition to being clear, focused, and concise, our communication also has to be passionate. According to Jim Rohn, “Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.”

A leader wants to make a difference in the world. I believe our impact is directly related to our ability to cut through the noise, in our lives and in the lives of others!

Philippians 4.8-9 (NLT) …

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise … Then the God of peace will be with you.

Question: How do you handle the noise?

God Works in the Summer, Too!

Here’s my latest finance letter for West Side …

Summer is upon us! Some days we can feel it in the warm sunshine and some days we wonder as we experience the cool rain and blustery winds. One day I was in eastern PA and we traveled from balmy eighty degree temperatures to an icy mix as we approached Clearfield! Nevertheless, summer is coming … just ask any student how many days of school remain!

Summer is a time of renewal and rest; a time of connecting with family and friends. It is a time of vacation, family reunions, class reunions, and travel, for weekends at the cabin and more. Rev. Melvin Amerson says that it is “M.M.I.A. Season,” which is an acronym for Members Missing In Action. The season can begin with Mothers’ Day and continue through Labor Day, including the additional holidays of Memorial Day, Fathers’ Day and 4th of July, as well as vacation time.

While we may need some vacation time; God never goes on vacation and the work of the Lord never stops. The ministry of West Side UMC continues throughout the summer. Summer is the grand time for weddings. It is the time for one of our main children’s discipleship and outreach events: Vacation Bible School. We expand our worship services to include a Sunday 8:30 am service. And our leaders are busy planning for the Fall.

We need your continued financial support throughout the summer. Let us be mindful of God’s continued presence in our lives throughout the summer. Even when we are away from West Side, God goes with us. Even when we are away from West Side, God continues to minister to and through West Side. Let’s support God’s Church while we are on vacation!

Have a blessed summer!

Learning to Share

As any parent knows, learning to share is a challenging process. We’ve been pretty laid-back about it because it’s something that will develop over time. However, bringing Sarah into our family has brought it to the forefront a bit more!

Sharing is one of those things that’s difficult for all children to learn. In fact, it’s even difficult for adults to practice! It’s just that it’s more obvious with children and adults are better at hiding it!

The earliest Christ-followers, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, set the sharing bar really high …

They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. (Acts 2.45)

We all have room to grow!

Well, I posted some of Ethan’s phrases recently (Ethanisms 1.0 and 2.0). A phrase that’s stood out this week has been a sharing-related one.

Last Monday evening, at a gathering of area United Methodist pastors, Ethan reached over and grabbed some food from my plate (nothing new there!), and said, “I’m sharing with you!” The next day, took a toy from Sarah (nothing new there, either!), and after walking away from Sarah with the toy, he said again, “I’m sharing with you!”

Well, he doesn’t quite have the concept just yet, but at least it’s on the radar! 😀

Sarah’s Baptism

Last Saturday, Sarah was baptized. Saturday evening baptisms are unusual, but we scheduled a time other than Sunday morning so that both of us, as well as people from both of our congregations, could attend (Ethan’s Baptism took place on a Sunday afternoon).

Sarah did well. Ethan was wired, thanks in part to skipping his daily nap. As I wrote in Ethanisms 2.0, he was overheard saying, at the outset of his nap, “Hmm. Should I go to sleep? No. There’s someone else in the house.”

Both Ethan and Sarah were sent home with us from Korea with gifts of hanboks (“Korean clothing”) from their respective foster families. Koreans wear hanboks, traditional Korean clothing, for special occasions (prior to the influence of Western clothing about a century ago, they were commonly worn).

Sarah wore her hanbok for the first time at her baptism just as Ethan had done. Ethan wore his for the second time last Saturday, nearly two years after his baptism (both hanboks were big; Ethan’s still barely fit). Actually, we weren’t sure he’d actually wear his hanbok. For almost as long as we’ve had Sarah, he’s associated pink with Sarah’s clothes!

There were similarities with the service we planned for Ethan’s baptism, such as the use of the statement of faith of the Korean Methodist Church and a song called, “I Was There To Hear Your Borning Cry.” Also, in both cases, we asked someone else (our respective district superintendents) to officiate so that we could be parents, not pastors. For Sarah’s baptism, Rev. Dr. Pam Ford, State College District Superintendent, offered the message and conducted the baptism.

There were also a couple differences, thanks to Ethan. One of the songs we chose was “You Never Let Go,” one of Ethan’s favorite songs (it was the music we used for the music video we made for Ethan for our trip to Korea to get Sarah last October).

And more significantly, Ethan got to help in Sarah’s baptism by dipping his hand in the water and touching Sarah’s head. Even though he was wired and very busy, when it came time to help baptize Sarah, he was focused and on task. Ethan enjoyed it. We learned that he told people in Sunday school the next morning, “I helped baptize Sarah!”

Here are some photos from the special evening. Thanks to Russell Unick for taking these photos!

Things I Don’t Want to Regret

Today, I caught bits and pieces of the free online leadership event from Leadership Network called, Sage. The event involved a number of brief videos from seasoned leaders, each dealing with the question of what they’d do differently if given a do-over. I tweeted some of my favorite quotes.

Since I only caught bits and pieces, these reflections are preliminary, but there were still some areas that particularly challenged me.

Michael Duduit talked about preaching. He said …

Clear is better than clever.

This certainly agrees with the one-point preaching approach.

Duduit also said …

Effective messages send people out not praising the speaker but the Savior.

I appreciate Walt Kallestad. We had the opportunity to hear him teach as part of our Asbury program a few years ago. Walt made several important memorable statements, including …

Keep it simple, like teaching people to love the Lord with all your heart, and that relationships are central to building community.

Walt hit on the importance of prayer and said now …

I pray more and work less.

One of the major themes was caring for yourself and your soul, including spending time with God. Joel Hunter challenged listeners to get into God’s Word. He said …

Read the word of God every day. I can‘t believe I get to learn and help others understand it.

But from what I could tell, by far the most common theme from these seasoned leaders, which many learned the hard way, was FAMILY.

I didn’t write down a lot of the statements, but a couple include Joel Hunter’s comment …

Enjoy your family.

I was more impacted by Hunter’s heart and authenticity than the actual words. (By the way, Hunter is one of the members of President Obama’s so-called “spiritual cabinet.”)

Gene Getz also highlighted the importance of family. Speaking of his regrets, he said …

You can’t make up for what you didn’t do!

I will need go back and watch the videos again, especially the ones I missed when they are posted on Leadership Network.

Finally, I really enjoyed Chip Ingram’s presentation, which unfortunately was cut short due to technical difficulties. But before the lights went out for several minutes, I loved what Ingram, who talked about lifelong learning, said …

God’s number one agenda is to work in you before he works through you.

Interestingly, I think this will shape my message this Sunday. I’ve been in a series on “Life in the Wilderness” (i.e., those times that are unplanned and unexpected and difficult!). This week, I’m talking about preparation and after today, may do so in the context of forgetting the past and preparing for the rest of our lives. What do we want to do differently? What do we need to do to make the most of the rest of our lives?

Adrenaline Hangover

Yesterday, the first day after the 2010 HealthFlex HealthMiles Challenge (a program of Virgin HealthMiles through our health insurance program), I experienced an “adrenaline hangover” (I’ve written before about a pastor’s hangover, which is probably a form of an adrenaline hangover).

I was able to hit the daily limit of 30,000 steps/day for each day of the 29-day challenge, as I did last year. But I think I went into last year’s challenge with a higher daily step average (around 16,000/day last year compared to maybe 13,000 this year) so I’m not sure I was as ready this year, but I was able to endure.

Like last year, I thought it was more of a mental challenge than a physical one due to having to keep constant checking of the pedometer and pacing myself throughout each day to make sure I was staying on track.

I got up just about everyday between 5:00 and 5:45 and walked for about 75 minutes. I usually had to do at least one more walk before the end of the day (sometimes after the kids went to sleep at night). The most challenging days were the four days went spent in Washington D.C. for the General Board of Church and Society seminar. Also, the final week, I could tell I was starting to drag a little as I seemed to cross the daily finish line a little later each night than usual.

As I said at the beginning, I wanted to do it just to see if I could. I also think it was a good (endurance) discipline to “run (or in my case, walk) through the quit!”

There was more of an emphasis on the team competition this year instead of the individual competition. Out of 33 conferences/teams (totaling more than 3,300 people), our conference should finish in sixth place (similar to last year, I believe). Our team looked like one of the larger teams.

Waking up yesterday morning, though — the first day in a month that the adrenaline didn’t help me get up and moving — was tough. I felt pretty rough all day!

It was a good experience, but I’m glad it’s over. I’ll rest for a few days from exercising before getting back to it. I expect my exercise/workouts to be more intense but much shorter! 😉

Ethanisms 2.0

While Sarah’s language development is just getting started, Ethan’s is taking off. A week ago, I wrote about Ethan’s language development, but since then, I have remembered and/or caught several new ones.

Yesterday, Ethan, who will be three in less than a month, sensed the excitement in the air regarding Sarah’s baptism last night (which we’ll write about soon, by the way; waiting on photos and we need time to process and recover from the weekend!). Joleen’s friend from college, Trish, had arrived earlier in the day and we were expecting other family and friends to join us for dinner prior to the evening service. Ethan normally sleeps and naps well, but occasionally/rarely, he’ll be too wired to sleep. Yesterday was one of those days. Trish saw and overheard Ethan standing at the end of his, saying, “Hmm. Should I go to sleep? No. There’s someone else in the house.”

Ethan usually eats one of various kinds of cereal for breakfast. We try not to give him too many choices (although some control is a good thing) but lately he prefers Mommy and Daddy’s cereal, which may have more fiber and/or more sugar. So, after rejecting two or three more kid-friendly cereals, we’ll let Ethan have one bowl of our cereal (he’d eat more, if we let him). Yesterday morning, when asked if he wanted our cereal, Ethan said (as he has at other times), “Yep! That’s what I needed!”

One time Ethan was humming. He said, “I’m singing in my mouth!”

A couple months ago, Ethan picked up my wallet from the table and started going through it. He eventually pulled out the cash and said, “Ohhh, this goes in the plate!” (as in offering plate).

Several weeks ago, we went through a car wash. Ethan didn’t like it. Often, when we get in the car now, Ethan asks if we’re going to the car wash, or he may point to it if we’re driving by. Sometimes when Sarah is fussy in the car, Ethan will encourage her, “Sarah, we’re NOT going to the car wash!”

Joleen mentioned it yesterday in her baptismal prayer post that sometimes Ethan will say, usually in response to my attempt to get Sarah to say certain words: “She’s a baby. She can’t remember words!”

Ethan might tack on the line “if you want to!” at the end of a request. If he’s not sure what you said or what you mean, he might say (a little demandingly, at times), “What did you say?” (or, “Hey, what did you say?”). When Ethan thinks you did something right, he might say, “That’s-a-way!”

Now, I really, really love listening to Ethan’s language development, but I must say, my favorite Ethanism is, “I love you, Dad!”