Bracing for a Storm

The storm that’s headed this way has been a popular topic of discussion for our group ever since we met in Harrisburg on Sunday for our orientation; in fact, the intensity seems to be increasing as the hours go by.

As we go to sleep Monday night, there is a winter storm watch here in New York City, which I expect will be adjusted by tomorrow. New York has already been hit hard this winter with a record-setting 33 inches of snow in the month of January. (Edited Tuesday morning to say that at 4:15 a.m., a winter storm warning was issued through 7:00 p.m. Wednesday!)

The problem with this storm isn’t so much snow but ice. The storm is coming from the west, which means it will hit our home (Clearfield) on its way here. At home, there is a winter storm warning well into Wednesday where a half inch of ice is possible on top of a few inches of snow. Here, things are more uncertain, but any ice would impact the city.

Based on the current forecast, there doesn’t appear to be a good time to travel home through Wednesday night. We’re scheduled to leave here Wednesday around 3:30 p.m. If the Board of Global Ministries closes for the day due to the storm, our plans would change.

Well, all of this certainly makes the next couple of days exciting. We hope that we aren’t delayed too much as we will already be apart from the kids for about four days!

Our trip home includes a 3.5 hour bus trip from NYC to Harrisburg where our vehicle is parked. Then, we’ll have a 2.5 hour drive home (these times do not include weather problems/delays!).

The good news is, it should make for a good story! 🙂

A Glimpse of New York City

Today was our first full day in New York City. We are here for the Global Ministries seminar. We spent most of the day at the General Board of Global Ministries learning about what the UMC does around the world. It was a great day (we’ll reflect on what we’re learning later when we have more time).

After our sessions today, a group of us got a better glimpse of the city. We started with dinner at John’s Pizzaria which is housed in a building that used to be a church, sadly enough. At their website, click on gallery to see photos, which are much better than the few I took inside the building. After dinner, we walked to the The Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center where we ascended to the observation decks (67th, 69th, and 70th floors). It’s cold on the ground; it’s even colder in the sky!

Tomorrow, we will visit churches/ministries that are engaging their city in ministry, which will give us an even better glimpse of the city, but also what God is doing in the city. It should be a great experience. In the meantime, here are a few photos from today …

New York, New York!

Yesterday, I wrote 4 Details About Our Trip to New York. Earlier today, we drove to Harrisburg to meet up with the group from our conference going to the General Board of Global Ministries seminar.

We arrived in New York City this evening, walked to the subway station to get passes for our time here, then a few of walked around Times Square together before calling it a night (in the city that never sleeps!).

We’ll share more about our time here in the days ahead. For now, I’m posting a “movie trailer” I created with Apple’s iMovie which is included on the DVD we left for the kids while we’re in New York (all I did was choose short video clips which were recorded at a local indoor playground a few weeks ago; iMovie pieced it together and supplied the music and words).

4 Details About Our Trip to New York

Tomorrow, Joleen and I travel to New York City for a seminar at the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church that begins Monday and ends Wednesday.

Here are four details about the trip …

1. This trip is required for ordination. Last year, we visited the General Board of Church and Society, which has since been dropped from the list of requirements for ordination in our conference.

2. We will gain a greater understanding of what the UMC does in the world. We’re looking forward to learning more about what the UMC does in and around the world. Tuesday will be spent visiting a variety of churches in the area.

3. We will enjoy New York City. We will have Monday and Tuesday evenings free to take in the culture. We’ll probably see a show on Broadway (around the corner from where we’re staying) and another activity on the other night. Koreatown is located nearby so that’s an option.

4. We will miss the kids. We look forward to our time in New York City but we’ll miss the kids. This will be the longest we’ve ever been separated from Sarah and the longest from Ethan since we went to Korea to get Sarah 15 months ago. Ethan was 28 months old then; Sarah is almost 23 months old now. Like last time, I’m creating a DVD for the kids to watch while we’re gone. It will include some of the videos we’ve shot in the last year or so.

We’re taking a camera and a laptop so hopefully we’ll be able to blog from New York.

Books

The importance of reading to children is well-documented and I think it’s something we do pretty well in our home. It certainly helps that both Ethan and Sarah love books!

Of course, our evening family devotion time involves reading children’s Bible story books. But also on most afternoons these days, when one of us takes the kids upstairs for nap time, Sarah uses sign language for book, informing us that even though’s she’s tired and needs a nap, we have to read first.

It’s amazing how quickly children learn stories. Several months ago I was especially amazed when Ethan recited an entire book on tractors nearly word for word (including phrases like “massive pulling machine,” “its dual wheels spread out its enormous weight,” “compact tractors help keep parks and golf courses neat and clean,” plus specs on how much horsepower the engines have).

Ethan helped us develop good reading habits early, though. He loved books from the beginning. Interestingly, Sarah didn’t seem too interested in books when we brought her home. It took her a while but once she got into them, she really went gung-ho. A couple days ago, while we were busy doing something, Joleen overheard Ethan “reading” to Sarah (a book she had chosen).

We certainly hope they’re habits that will last a lifetime!

Photos

Joleen and I have taken a lot of photos during our years together. We bought ourselves a Pentax camera for Christmas in 1993, which was actually three weeks before we were married. In October 2005, we finally bought our first digital camera, another Pentax. We upgraded that camera with a Canon Powershot S5 IS in September 2007 in preparation for our (first) trip to Korea. Since then, we’ve taken a lot more photos!

According to the iPhoto applications on our Macs, we took (only) about 600 photos from October 2005 to February 2008, when we went to Korea to get Ethan. Since then, we’ve taken somewhere around 5,000 photos — an average of 4+ per day for almost 3 years.

Of course, those photos often come in big chunks. We may go days without taking any photos, and sometimes, we have to be intentional about getting out the camera.

Ironically, before Ethan, there are very few photos on the blog. When we received Ethan’s referral photos from Korea, we really wrestled with whether or not to post a photo of the 3.5 month old baby boy. In the end, we decided to post one of the six photos we received. Since then, we’ve loosened up quite a bit (there are nearly 900 photos on the blog)! 🙂

Family Devotion

Our daily schedules are not the most routine, but one of the devotional habits that we practice pretty consistently is our evening family devotional time (the four of us when we’re all home; otherwise, it’s one of us and the two kids, depending on evening meeting schedule).

When it’s time, we head upstairs and get the kids ready for bed, then they drink milk while we read (this *usually* keeps them fairly attentive). We’ve used a few resources over the last (nearly) three years, including My First Read And Learn Favorite Bible Verses, which we’ve used the most.

We also really like a storybook that we’ve been using for the last few weeks: Children of God Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu (see childrenofgodbible.com). The stories are creative and well-written and the artwork is high quality. We especially like that illustrators were selected from all over the world and were encouraged to illustrate the stories from their own cultures giving the book a strong cultural dynamic. We also like that each story concludes with a sentence prayer, which is a good lead-in to our family prayer time.

We pray after reading a story. We recently added My First Read And Learn Book Of Prayers, which we use occasionally (it includes morning, evening, mealtime, and various other prayers). The kids have also received a few “prayer angels” or “prayer bears” along the way that say a prayer when pressed. We’ve worn out a couple of them and we’re currently using a bear that prays multiple prayers, so we give each of the kids a chance to press the bear’s paw to hear a prayer. Then one of us prays (Joleen and I alternate evenings).

Finally, we brush teeth and tuck the kids in bed (Joleen and I alternate whose teeth we brush and whom we tuck in, as well).

It’s not always the smoothest process (especially if the kids are tired or wound up), but we believe—and trust—that we are formed by our practices!

“This We Believe”

In preparation for writing our Theology Papers (responses to the theological questions in the Book of Discipline) for ordination in the UMC, we did some reading in the area of Wesleyan theology. One of the books we read was Bishop William Willimon‘s This We Believe: The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice (you can read the first chapter at abingdonpress.com).

We loved the book (Joleen used it as a Bible study at West Side). One of the things I love about the book is its readability—pretty rare for books about theology. While many theological books are written for academic audiences (but they should be more readable anyway!), This We Believe is written for use with the recent publication of the Wesley Study Bible.

The book focuses on seven areas: (1) the Trinity, (2) Jesus, (3) the Holy Spirit, (4) Scripture, (5) salvation, (6) Christian work and witness, and (7) the Church.

We highlighted a number of great statements. Here are some …

Wesley was not much interested in any theology that couldn’t be put into practice; warmed hearts and good intentions were no substitute for active hands (xv).

Christians admit that it may be of the nature of God to be beyond human visibility or comprehension. Until Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the perfect, sufficient revelation of who God is and what God does (2-3).

Our love of God is responsive, responsible love. … Wesley relentlessly repeated that God’s love evokes our love. God’s love evokes, enables, and even requires our response (7).

[At Pentecost] We had gathered to remember the past, only to have the Holy Spirit thrust us into a new, unexpected future (44).

Claims of justification without evidence of sanctification were what Wesley called ‘dead religion’ (60).

Scripture is not merely to be understood, pondered, and debated but also enacted, embodied, and performed. We are to intellectually understand Scripture and to practically, morally enact Scripture in our lives. The truth of Scripture is known in its performance (76).

The religion of the warmed heart produces religion of the active hands (127).

The church is … Christ in motion, continuing his movement into the world (137).

I am sure this is a resource we will refer to time and again!

Willimon is bishop of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church. We read his book, Pastor, in a Theology of Ministry class in Asbury’s D.Min. program several years ago (incidentally, Willimon was elected bishop the week we were at Asbury for this class). Willimon also blogs, and I just added his recent book, Why Jesus?, to the list of things I want to read as I prepare for ordination.

Wesley’s Historic Questions

In my recent post, 150 Days of Preparation for Ordination, I listed a few things I’d like to read/reflect on between now and ordination in June.

I just added John Wesley’s historic questions to the list. These questions, found in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (2008) in paragraph 336 (page 246), have been asked of those being ordained since the beginning of Methodism. According to the Discipline, “At the time of examination, the bishop shall also explain to the conference the historic nature of the following questions and interpret their spirit and intent.” (I like that the Discipline acknowledges that the questions may need some interpretation/explanation. :-))

  1. Have you faith in Christ?
  2. Are you going on to perfection?
  3. Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?
  4. Are you earnestly striving after it?
  5. Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and his work?
  6. Do you know the General Rules of our Church?
  7. Will you keep them?
  8. Have you studied the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?
  9. After full examination, do you believe that our doctrines are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures?
  10. Will you preach and maintain them?
  11. Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity?
  12. Do you approve our Church government and polity?
  13. Will you support and maintain them?
  14. Will you diligently instruct the children in every place?
  15. Will you visit from house to house?
  16. Will you recommend fasting or abstinence, both by precept and example?
  17. Are you determined to employ all your time in the work of God?
  18. Are you in debt so as to embarrass you in your work?
  19. Will you observe the following directions? a) Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary. b) Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.

The bishop will ask these questions of the ordinands at annual conference. I believe we will also have opportunity to reflect on them at a retreat with the bishop in May when the bishop meets with those to be ordained or commissioned.

I’m guessing that in 200+ years of asking these questions that no one has ever answered no to any of the questions! 😀

(Edited to add: See The Historic Questions 2.0)

Game Night

Tonight, we watched the Steelers play in the AFC Championship game. Well, actually, the kids went to bed at their usual bedtime which was just before halftime. But before they did, they got to do a little cheering (there was a lot more cheering to do in the first half, anyway). They also got to make and decorate a special treat.

The next big game will be Super Bowl XLV between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers!