Trick or Treat 2008

Tonight was trick-or-treat night in Clearfield and it was a busy night on Nichols Street! We had an estimated 132 trick-or-treaters come to our door between 6:00 and 8:00 pm.

Our family night began with carving a jack-o-lantern, then we distributed candy to trick-or-treaters for the next couple of hours. Ethan helped hand out most of the candy while Mommy placed a “Light up the night” flyer in each child’s/youth’s bag, making it not only a fun night, but also an opportunity to share “good news.”

At first, Ethan was a little afraid of the costumes, but he adjusted pretty quickly. At times it was hard for him to place candy in bags while trying to look at faces at the same time.

Forty-five minutes later, Ethan is in his crib still unwinding from all the excitement of the night! 🙂

Operation Christmas Child with Ethan

As we wrote about last year, we enjoy participating in Operation Christmas Child each year around this time.

In our new ministry settings, the youth groups from Centre Grove (who has been active participants in the outreach for several years) and West Side are both leading efforts in the two churches to assemble gift-filled shoe boxes for needy children around the world.

It’s a great way to brighten the life of children around the world, and to share God’s love with them, in the process. And this year, Ethan gets to join in the effort, too.

Ethan’s Recent Recreation

We have gotten to do some different recreational activities in recent days, including mini-golfing with the West Side and Centre Grove youth groups, biking with Skip and Nancy Koerber on the local rails-to-trails, and feeding the ducks with Dick and Joann McCrum where the river runs through Clearfield.

As we head into the colder months, we’ll have to find new ways to keep us all active, including Ethan. Here are some photos …

Task Management 2.0

Back in July 2008 I wrote about my task management journey, my search for systems to help me be more and more productive. I stated my believe that “there’s always a better way!”

I also discussed my latest attempt at using an online application, Remember the Milk. While I like the (free) service, I have concluded that I still need to see everything at a glance and be able to take it with me wherever I go. It’s was the same thing with a PDA several years ago. While I could take it with me, I couldn’t see everything, easily, at a glance, or or record notes on the fly.

So, what’s next?

Believe it or not, I may be coming full circle, where I started two decades ago. I am seriously considering going back to a paper planner (like Franklin Covey).

The thing I miss about a paper planner is having a central location to record notes, thoughts, and action items. And, with adding a child to the mix in our lives, having an effective centralized system becomes that much more important!

Franklin planners start on the quarters so I have till January (the next quarter) to decide if this is indeed the direction I want to go, so stay tuned for 3.0 somewhere down the road. 🙂

Local Pastor Sabbath

On Sunday, Joleen, Ethan, and I attended our district’s first (of what may become an annual event) “local pastor sabbath.” It was intended to be an opportunity for Local Pastors (and Student Pastors and Appointed Lay Speakers) to share a day off together.

We gathered at Gethsemane United Methodist Church in Allport (located across the street from West Branch High School) for the 10:45 am worship service where Rev. Dr. Pam Ford, State College District Superintendent, preached a much-needed message on the importance of sabbath.

After worship, pastors ate an excellent meal together that the church had prepared for us, followed by a teaching/discussion time led by Rev. Karen Allen (pastor of Gethsemane) called, “Gathering Our Crazy Scattered Lives.” It was a practical and helpful time!

We concluded the day with a time of worship and communion. This is especially noteworthy because it was the first time the three of us celebrated communion together as a family, including Ethan’s first communion. We had intentionally waited until the three of us could be together for communion, since we’re not usually together for Sunday worship gatherings.

Speaking of Ethan, he was with us for the day. After lunch, he slept for about an hour (a short nap for him), mostly while Joleen held him during the afternoon teaching/discussion session. He did very well on the day.

We’re grateful for the sabbath day we had together!

God-Followers Helping the Poor

Today is Blog Action Day 2008. Thousands of bloggers are focusing on the issue of poverty from many different angles perspectives.

In this post, I want to highlight a few words from the Scriptures that indicate that helping the poor was a core value in the first century church (the decades following the death and resurrection of Jesus). Here are some parts that illustrate the value of helping those in need …

Tabitha (a.k.a. Dorcas) “was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor (Acts 9.36).

In Acts 10, a Roman army officer named Cornelius was described as “a devout, God-fearing man,” who “gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God.” The fact that Cornelius helped the poor was repeated by the angel who visited him: “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering!”

Paul, a leader in the first century church, wrote in a letter to a group of Christ-followers in Rome, noting that another group of Christ-followers had “eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem” (Romans 15.25-26).

Paul started out as an enemy of the church, but after an encounter with God, He became a leader in the new Jesus movement. Upon receiving approval from other church leaders to spread the message of Jesus Christ throughout the world, Paul mentions that “their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor,” which Paul stated that he was always “eager to do” (Galatians 2.9-10).

And there was good reason that helping the poor was a core value in the first century church. Jesus went so far as to say that how we treat those in need is how we treat Jesus, himself. Jesus said …

I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.

Jesus went on to say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (see Matthew 25.35-40).

These are just a few of the many Scriptures that demonstrate God’s (and people’s) heart for the poor. Today, there are some organizations that are leading the way in mobilizing people to help the poor. Here are some causes we support

We’ve previously written about our experience with sponsoring a child through World Vision. It’s a great way to impact the life of a child!

We designate a certain percentage of our income that we give to our churches. We set aside another percentage of our income that we give toward special ministry efforts. In addition to the causes we’ve written about before, another favorite is Heifer International.

Helping the poor was a core value in the first century church. Nearly 2,000 years later, it must still be a core value for Christ-followers!

Finally Finalized

Today was a special day in the Willis household. We traveled to the Cumberland County Courthouse in Carlisle and Ethan’s adoption was finalized.

It was kind of a last minute thing. The lawyer’s office called Monday and said they could squeeze us in at the end of several other adoption finalization hearings if we could make it Thursday at 10:15 am. Otherwise we would have had to wait until December.

Today, Ethan is officially our son and Ethan’s name officially becomes Ethan Quinn Willis. What a momentous occasion!

We also got to meet Bella (short for Isabella), the daughter of Ben and Brandy who were a part of our adoption home study group when we started this journey in January 2007. Their finalization was today also. Bella is from Guatemala. It was so good to see them. See this post from March as well as their blog.

My mom and step-dad went along, and Dave and Jean Norris were able to meet us there as well. Afterward, we all went to Spring Garden Restaurant, located in Camp Hill, for authentic Korean food.

We had bibimbap, bulgogi, and potato noodles (which I don’t know the Korean name for). We had the array of side dishes which included kimchi, of course. Everyone enjoyed it. Randy and I were pleased that it tasted like the food we had experienced in Korea. It was the first time for everyone else to experience Korean food, and it was probably the most Ethan has had as well.

Today brought back many memories of visiting Korea. We will always treasure these special memories and the people we befriended, or rather befriended us, who made it so memorable. We will always treasure the blessing of Ethan in our lives!

7 Days of Prayer for the UMC

When we were in Kansas City last week for the Leadership Institute at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, we received a 7 Days of Prayer prayer guide. Many churches are using this prayer guide to join together in prayer for the renewal and transformation of our churches.

Here it is …

Seven Days of Prayer for The United Methodist Church

Sunday – Passionate Worship
Lord, we pray that United Methodist churches across the globe would have an awesome encounter of worshiping You in Spirit and in truth today (John 4:24).

Monday – Calling Young People into Ministry
Lord, we pray that You would raise up laborers for the harvest (Matthew 9:37-39). And, specifically, we ask You to raise up 2000 young clergy in America and call them into the ministry of The United Methodist Church.

Tuesday – New Churches
Lord, we pray that You would raise up 400 new United Methodist churches in America in places where there is no vibrant witness for the Gospel right now (Romans 15:20).

Wednesday – Ministry to the Poor
Lord, we pray that You would use United Methodist churches to alleviate poverty, stamp out malaria and HIV/AIDS, and minister to the less fortunate and overlooked in the name of Jesus (Matthew 25:40).

Thursday – Renewed Vitality of the UMC
Lord, we pray that You would bring renewed vitality to The United Methodist Church (Ezekiel 37) and that You would daily add to Your church through professions of faith (Acts 2:47).

Friday – Unity
Lord, we pray for a healthy unity across The United Methodist Church such that the unbelieving world may see and believe in You (John 17:20-21).

Saturday – The Word
Lord, we pray that as the Word of God is preached in our church and other United Methodist churches tomorrow that You would bear fruit that will last forever (Isaiah 55:10-11).


I Want to Change the World!

Tonight, as I rushed out of COR’s sanctuary at the conclusion of Leadership Institute, I found myself having a familiar conversation with God …

I want to change the world!

That conversation was reawakened in me at a Chris Tomlin concert last year in State College.

Well, since it’s late and we have to get up in 4 hours to head to the airport, I’ll make this quick.

You can’t be at the Church of the Resurrection and not get a sense of the impact they’ve had on their city. COR, started by Adam Hamilton in 1990, currently has 9,000 people who attend services/ministries each weekend, and there are many incredible ministries that take place there.

As I’ve said before, we’ll need to take some time to process what we’ve heard and find ways to implement what we’ve learned in our lives and ministries. But for now, I’ll just share a couple quick things …

First, the worship experiences have been amazing — the music, the words, and the multimedia. It’s been quite emotional. In fact, I could hardly even sing this morning due to the intensity. It’s always intense to gather with so many people, particularly leaders, who love God and want to make a difference in the world.

Second, the closing worship and prayer time tonight was incredible. We sang about being the light of the world as more than 1,600 of us from 500 different churches representing 200,000 people held lit candles in the once darkened room displaying our desire and our prayer to change the world.

May God indeed empower those of us who’ve gathered here this week in Kansas City to change the world through transformed local congregations!

More later after we’ve had a chance to process what God is saying to us in Kansas City. But first, a few closing thoughts …

We’ve enjoyed traveling with colleagues and friends from our conference to this event in Kansas City, ad spending time with them. We’re new to the district, so it’s been an opportunity to meet and/or get to know some people better.

And, finally, Joleen and I look forward to seeing, holding, and reconnecting with Ethan in 12 or so hours from now!

Takeaways from Leadership Institute

From today’s marathon day, three concepts stood out from today’s sessions, which all come out of a desire to impact non-religious or nominally-religious people.

Adam Hamilton, in some of his final thoughts, talked about his approach to preaching. While many of us were taught in seminary to follow something like this:

  1. Start with Bible
  2. Exegete the text
  3. Apply
  4. Illustrate

Preaching from the lectionary would be an example of following this approach. While Adam still uses this approach about half the year (although he doesn’t follow the lectionary, except in December), he follows a different approach for the rest of the year:

  1. Start with the human condition (e.g., marriage issues, etc.)
  2. Exegete the human condition (what are the root causes? etc.)
  3. How the Bible speaks to the condition
  4. Illustrate

While this model isn’t new to us, it validates it. Some people find fault with this approach, but there is biblical precedence. In fact, Adam said, Jesus virtually always started with a story about the human condition; only once did he use what we’d call the lectionary (i.e., his first sermon where he read from the scroll, Isaiah 61).

Another area that struck me was Adam’s talk about 21st century evangelism, which he calls “service evangelism.” Adam suggested an alternative view of Rick Warren’s illustration of the four bases that culminates with mission. Adam suggests that this cycle is now reversed. Today the model starts with mission, which helps people discover their passions/spiritual gifts. People begin to understand Scripture and they eventually accept Christ, before ultimately becoming in mission. Adam drove the point home, saying, mission and service comes first, not last.

The other major thing that struck me came from keynote speaker, Jim Wallis. Wallis, pointing to the great awakenings, talked about revival and said it’s not revival until it changes something in society. This comes from his study of the great awakenings. Revival needs to be both personal and social.

In talking about repentance, Wallis asked what might repentance mean for us. What about simplicity, stewardship, putting economic values above family values, the sin of covetousness, cultural values of worth versus kingdom values, living beyond our means, etc.?

Finally, Wallis encouraged us to be the change we want for the world. Also, he said our congregations need to be the change, to be responsible for the neighborhoods in which they’re located.

Now that Leadership Institute is over, we have a lot to process!