In the months before we brought Ethan home from Korea, a friend told us about teaching her children sign language even before they were able to communicate with words.

One of the first signs we taught Ethan was “more” (to help us know if he was still hungry and wanted more food). And recently, we’ve been working on increasing the number of words/signs Ethan is able to communicate, including: banana, cold (which he also uses for “hot,” at the moment), finished (we use “all gone,” and it’s a modified version of the official sign), water (a hard word to sign so Ethan uses his own version), and his favorite, milk!

Signing is a fun way to communicate with Ethan and we’ll try to continue to expand his signing vocabulary. We’re currently working on car (which has been one of his favorite spoken words) and bath.

You might enjoy checking out a fun/helpful baby signing video dictionary (American Sign Language) which uses an animated baby to demonstrate the sign (there are also written instructions included as well). The site shows how to sign quite a few words, including the ones mentioned above. Check it out.

What has been your experience with signing (and perhaps teaching children how to sign)?

Vacation Hangover

We wondered how Ethan would handle our recent vacation, visiting family in Tennessee. It was the longest Ethan’s been away from home since being with us. As it turns out, he handled it pretty well.

Ethan went to sleep each night without too much difficulty, but he didn’t get as much sleep as he needed during the days; there was just too much activity in a new place. He didn’t make up too much of it on the way home, either. During the 11.5 hour drive home, he slept about 1.5 hours.

In the 10 days we’ve been home, Ethan has been trying to get back into his routine and rhythm, especially with his naps, which have always been the challenge (that hasn’t bothered us too much, though, since he sleeps so well at nights, normally).

We enjoyed our time in TN. Here are some photos from the trip …

Naughty or Nice?

At a “breakfast with Santa” this morning, we overheard someone jokingly ask their child what they were going to say when Santa asked if they’ve been good this year. Moments later, Joleen and I discovered that we both were thinking about that exchange.

The lyrics of the song, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, warn …

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town.

The basic idea is that if you’ve been good, you’ll be rewarded but if you’ve been bad, well, you’ll get nothing (or perhaps a chunk of coal).

In our brief individual reflection we both thought of a movie we watched while we were in Tennessee recently, Fred Claus. The movie tells the story of Fred, Santa’s older brother. One of the lessons Fred (who’s had a troubled life, in the shadow of his revered brother) teaches his brother in the end is that all children deserve a gift whether or not they’ve been good.

Romans 3.23 says …

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

Thank God who has given us the gift of his Son, even though we don’t deserve it!

It Takes 20 Years to Make a Sermon

I have waited 20 years to write this post, even though the blog has only been around a few years.

In the earliest days of my Christ-following journey (as a college student), I read as much as I could about the lives of preachers who’ve gone before us. One of those people was E.M. Bounds, a Methodist preacher in the 1800s (he served as a chaplain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War).

One of Bounds’ major focuses was prayer. I remember reading a little book he wrote on prayer, specifically the prayer life of the preacher. In recent years, I’ve been getting back to Bounds and I’ve picked up a copy of The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer, a collection of several little books Bounds wrote on prayer.

In the book on the prayer life of the preacher, Bounds wrote one statement that has stuck with me ever since I read it …

It takes twenty years to make the sermon because it takes twenty years to make the man (woman).

Frankly, I never liked that statement! But that was about 20 years ago, and twenty years later, it makes a lot of sense!

The point Bounds makes, I think, is that it takes time to internalize the message. The sermon grows out of the preacher’s life. The impact of a sermon is not so much in the words the preacher speaks, but in the life the preacher lives. When the preacher’s life speaks volumes about the life of God, the words have real impact in the lives of listeners.

I plan to write soon about the process I go through in preparing sermons (which is always in development!). I’ll write about how my process has evolved over the years up till now.

For more on preaching/communication, see One-Point Preaching and StoryMapping, two of the most viewed posts on the blog.