House Renovations

We’ve had to do some work on the house, lately.  It’s one of those things that snuck up on us.  Since we moved in three years ago, we’ve intended to get the front steps tiled to match the porch.  Soon after we moved in a pipe leaked into the basement and we had to tear out a wall so the plumbers could properly fix it.  That wall has been torn up ever since.  Some plaster cracked in the bedroom and we needed to get it repaired.  We waited too long and the crack became too big to do a simple repair.  We looked around and realized that all these small jobs had turned into a huge job.  So we called a handy man and dug deep into the wallet.

Our relationships are like this.  Maybe a person gets angry and yells at their spouse, but if we talk about our feelings…process what happened…then that “small crack in the plaster” can easily be fixed.  Maybe a person really messes up and breaks trust with a parent or child.  They say that they will pick them up or take care of them, but, then, the person forgets or chooses not to. It’s like the basement wall, though: If we get in and repair it correctly…and rebuild trust right away, we can get back to enjoying life and it may not have to cost us so much.

With any relationship issues: ignoring the problem is not a good option.  The longer we ignore the problem, the bigger the problem becomes.  Sometimes, when we don’t properly talk through our smaller problems the relationship breaks down and soon it is far too expensive to repair.

With our house, I think we caught it in time.  We had to use quite a bit of savings, but our house is nearly all fixed up: even better than when we moved in.  If you have a relationship that has broken down, don’t wait any longer.  Get to work fixing the pain and begin the process of rebuilding trust.  I think you will find that it is worth the risk, time and expense!

Our Holiday Letter

This has been a year of extreme highs and terrible lows for our family.  This year began with illness and surgery.  Scott was experiencing terrible pain and the doctors misdiagnosed it.  He walked around with appendicitis for almost four weeks before a specialist rushed him into a successful surgery.  We cannot say enough about the care he received at BroMenn Medical Center in Bloomington, and will remain silent in regards to another facility.

Scott’s recovery was swift and we were able to travel to Israel-Palestine in February.  In 2014 the conference graciously allowed Scott to defer his ordination trip so that we could, instead, travel as a couple on the 2016 Ordinand Trip to the Holy Land.  It was an incredible trip not just because of the sights and sounds, but also because of the many colleagues and friends who were on the trip with us.  Not only that, but Carrie’s sister decided to join the trip.  We were blessed to be part of such an incredible experience with such amazing people!

While we were on the extension trip in Ammon, Jordan we received a call from our foster care agency that they had a placement for us.  We, obviously, were not available to take the placement and we were crushed that after such a long wait we were unable to become parents.  Just days after our arrival home we received another call for a 10 year old girl to be placed with us.  We were overjoyed (and nervous)!  She moved in the next day on March 10.  “A” would stay with us for the next five months.  The situation was not what we or the agency expected and our home quickly became unsafe.  She was moved to a more appropriate placement in August.

During that summer Scott completed his second residency (set of summer classes) in the ACTS Doctor of Ministry program.  We are blessed that his church has given him extra time for continuing education and provided him with financial support that makes this possible.  He has one more assigned sermon and an integrative paper this year, one more residency and then begins his thesis writing.  He is almost there!

Carrie also worked hard this year to grow professionally.  She completed her certificate in nonprofit management from Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University) this year.  She also traveled to Chicago for the Mediation Skills Training Institute at Lombard-Mennonite Peace Center which got her interested in a Clergy Clinic process which she began in the fall.

This fall we cancelled our membership with our TaeKwonDo (Korean martial arts) Dojang (gym).  We really enjoyed Master Soo Kim and the other students at Soo Kim Martial Arts, but the times didn’t work with our schedules and the expense was great.  Instead we have gotten a membership at the Riverplex downtown.  Between exercise, healthy eating, and better sleep (and our Fitbit tracking) 2016 has been a year of increasing health for us as a family.

Despite our busy-ness we were able to get away for some days away.  In April we took “A” to Pere Marquette.  It was especially fun to see a little girl’s face light up the first time she stayed in a motel room.  We enjoyed hiking trails and seeing beautiful river scenes as well as a ferry boat ride and an afternoon at the Saint Louis Zoo.  In late April we took “A” to the Mark Twain cave and sights in Hannibal, Missouri and went down to the Berry family lake house in Saint Genevieve, Missouri in June for the twins’ birthday.  Carrie and “A” also got to spend a few days in late June in Saint Louis with family and, then, got to go to the Lincoln sites in Springfield.

In August, after “A” moved out, Carrie took a few days off to hike the Ozark trail.  Then, in September we spent two days in Chicago on a spur-of-the-moment trip.  We also dropped off our wedding rings for resizing (and added some bling to Carrie’s ring) and we enjoyed a day at Shedd’s Aquarium.

This Thanksgiving was spent with Carrie’s family, but at the home of…Carrie’s sister’s husband’s family (confusing? Not really, we’ll take them as full-on family any time)!Thanksgiving Day, itself, was wonderful overlooking downtown Saint Louis, but we also enjoyed several days visiting with Carrie’s family in Town and Country.  Christmas is expected to be with Scott’s family at his childhood home.  We are especially looking forward to seeing Scott’s sister and her husband who will be down from Wisconsin, so Christmas is looking to be just as wonderful as our recent Thanksgiving!

As we move into the holidays we reflect on a crazy year and we realize that we have received many blessings.  We look forward to Christmas celebrations at our churches and we hope that you and yours can count as many blessings in your lives as we do in ours!

Blessings & Peace,

A New Little Girl

After paper work, classes, and paper work, lots of waiting, and…more paperwork, we became licensed to provide foster care last November. We’re excited to share that we got the phone call we’ve been waiting for! It seems as though we will be welcoming a 10 year old girl to our home tomorrow! Her room is ready and waiting!!!

This has been a long process and a long-term dream.  This is how we want family to look, for us.  We believe that every child deserves to have a safe, caring place to call home and people to call a family.  Providing this, for Carrie and I, is part of our Christian calling as a family and we hope others will join us in this work.  You can learn more about foster care here.

Also a quick note:  Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to post details about foster children or their photos on-line and it is important that others in our life will honor that legal requirement as well.

It’s not just WHAT you do, but HOW you do it.

The difference between a foodie and a food snob can be a very fine line.  But I’m going to suggest that “foodies” enjoy gourmet food yet also, hopefully, the experience of eating and the relationships that can grow around that experience.  A food snob allows their experience of food to overshadow relationships.

A foodie will likely send back something that they don’t like…in fact, if asked “Could we improve,” or “What did you not like,” by a server:  A foodie may even offer their opinion, but tastefully, I would hope.

A food snob is more likely to ruin the dining experience for all those around them with comments, sneers and rudeness.

I observed this recently in one of the restaurants on our cruise.  A person found their meal to be less-than-satisfactory and began berating the server and making obvious comments and rudeness.  It doesn’t take an etiquette coach to see that others at the table were not enjoying their meal: not because of the food, but because of the experience.

It wasn’t that this woman returned her food or that she offered her opinion it was the way in which she did it.  It wasn’t a question of what but how.

I think an experience, like this, at a restaurant has implications for other facets of our lives.

  • It is not a question of whether we sit in church and ‘hear’ a sermon.  It is a question of experiencing God and others in worship and in fellowship.
  • It is not a question of whether or not I carry my wife’s purse or help her down a step, it is whether my action is an expression of my love for her and done joyfully.
  • It is not just that my in-laws would invite me above deck to the hot tub as an obligation, but that they are truly extending an invitation that I be a part of the family.

And for all of us:

  • It is not a matter of whether we take time to sit around a common table as a family and eat, but it is a question of whether we allow our time spent together to be a family-enriching experience or not.

I hope that as we spend time with others in our lives, whether ‘family or friend,’ ‘friend or foe,’ we would think not just about what we are doing, but about how we do it!  I pray that we would all strive for life-enriching, relationship-growing, community-renewing attitudes and experiences!

Valéncia, Spain


Gardens at the Ciudad de las artes y las ciencias
9:00 am:
Yesterday was a terrific day with tours, relaxation and some time exploring on our own.  Really this cruise thing has been a better mix than I thought it would be.  This morning we came into port around 6:30 or 7am.  By the time our coffee and english muffins arrived and we moved to the balcony (at 7:15am) the ship was just finishing docking.
Carrie and I enjoyed some toast / muffins and tea / coffee on the balcony thinking that we would go eat in one of the on-board restaurants later, but, you know, by the time we had a little something and got ready for the day, there didn’t seem to be a point.  I think we’ll survive until lunch, though…  🙂
Carrie just finished getting ready and now we’re heading out.  When we signed up for excursions we decided not to sign up for a Cruiseline planned excursion here in Valencia, so we are striking out on our own.  The ship leaves at 4pm, so we have to be back by 3:30pm and can spend the rest of the day reading and relaxing by the pool.
I hope that all is well for you…wherever you may be as you read this blog!


4:00 pm:
We’re back!  It was a great day, for sure.  I was grumpy this morning because I had not slept well last night.  It wasn’t a comfort thing… i was just amped up.  Anyway, most people who know me well will know that I get grumpy when I don’t sleep enough.  So, I think Carrie and I argued all the way to Historic Valencia, but, I quickly got over myself and we had a great rest of our day.

A church tower at Plaza Lope De Vega
Our first stop was the Plaza Lope De Vega.  Then we walked to the Cathedral and Basílica, but decided that outside was enough for us, today.  We had planned to go to the Mercado Central (Central Market) but got a report from Bob and June that there were no longer vendors there (it had been converted to coffee shops and restaurants).  We decided to pass on that.

The Cathedral (above) and streets nearby (below)


The argument earlier that day was because iI wanted to go see the Cuidad de las Artes y las ciencias (City of Art and Science) which is a complex of museums in Valencia.  It caught my eye because of the Aquarium where they have and underwater observatory where you walk under the water.  Well, we had time, so we headed out in a taxi for the museums.  Once we got there we enjoyed a walk to the aquarium, but it turned out it was €30 which is about $40 (?) per person.  If we could have just done the underwater walk or if it had been less expensive we might have done it.  But as it was it would take about 3 hours and we just didn’t think we had the time if we were going to enjoy our lunch and get back to the ship with comfort.

A view of the museum campus in Valencia

In the end the time, expense, and exercise we got on the way to the museums paid off by the sights we saw.  The buildings were stunning and we enjoyed walking through the parks nearby.  If we had to do it again, we would…it’s just that we would allow time to go through the museum, too.  Maybe we would plan a day just for the museums on a return trip.
We caught a taxi to lunch.  Katie and Carrie had found a restaurant out in the countryside that was well-known for their paellas, so we met Andrew and Katie outside of town at this country restaurant.  It had been written up and, then, made further famous when Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali ate there.
We also enjoyed our meal.  It was delicious and worth the cab fares for certain!  You can take a peek at our meal, too:
 

We got back to the ship with plenty of time to spare and we are now getting set to relax.  Carrie just headed up to the pool, so I will leave you all behind and follow after her!
Blessings,


I guess this what happens when you don’t have a plan, but pick up a video camera and start recording.  This is the video that is going to be used at the Evenglow Bible Study on Tuesday to give residents an update on my recovery and to show them the fruits of their labors as they prayed over my mother last Spring!

It is really great to be back in Pontiac and relaxing at home, but I sure did enjoy my time in Pittsfield with family!

Also, I think we’ll add another video here.  I asked Edwina Wilber, after church, to comment about what makes Pittsfield so great.  I thought you might enjoy her response:

Showing Love

FIRST:  Isn’t it funny how our minds and bodies will just take over and give us what we need -even if we don’t know what it is at the time??? The last few days I’ve been videoing and blogging to share with you all about my new medicine patterns and sleeplessness.  That’s old news, of course.  I realized something, though, this morning.  Like so many other 2 ams this week I found myself stirring.  I wobbled  to the bathroom and then went in search of my laptop.  (By the way: it is really hard to stay upright when you are missing part of your brain AND are on heavy narcotics, not going to lie about that.)

Well, there is my wife asleep in the bed and I don’t want to wake her (such a light sleeper compared to me), so I head to the kitchen.

Here it is almost 3 am and I suddenly realize that I’m at home.  I don’t mean that I feel at home or that my in-laws have just made me feel falsely welcome.  Nope!  I mean, I feel at home enought that I started my morning routine.  I went to the pantry and poured some Cinnamon Toast Crunch  (Yes, I’m aware of what a diet-poor decision that is.  I don’t care, btw, at 4 or 5am.  If it isn’t light out, the sugar and calories won’t count.

I’ve really been blessed to be staying in a place where such hospitality is shown.  It is great to be in a place where my in-laws tell me how they feel about my attitude, life, or behavior so that I can be the best person possible.

Tonight was one of those moments.  Earlier tonight I showed my mother-in-law, June, this new project I’ve bee doing.  She said, “Oh, gee, Scott, I see how you’re trying to make people feel appreciated, but this  could make people feel bad.  What about those people who have meant to send a card and forgot or couldn’t.

As I’ve scanned these cards into the computer, I’ve let those words tumble around my head.  She may be right, yet there are some other thoughts tumbling around my head, lately.  Over the past few months have been preaching and teaching about how we need to truly show our love.  I’ve said it over-and-over:  We need to write a card, make a phone call, and we need to visit one another.  If we are to be a community of Christ we need to be disciplined in showing our love to those around us.

I guess I could shove all these cards into an old shoe box as a selfish reminder one-day of some nice things that people once said to me…but I think the calling of pastor is higher than that.  I’ve been asking people to reach out in relationship and develop deeper connections with one-another, God and the world.  I want to lift up the thoughtful gestures that have been shared with me as an example.

These aren’t just names on a paper.  This isn’t just a list of prayers in a bulletin.  It’s not just a signature on a nice picture.  Nope.  These are thoughts and love, poured out for others.  Whether it is a time of “Sharing the Love of Christ” on Sunday morning during worship; whether it is a phone call to a loved one on Saturday afternoon; whether it is stopping in for lunch at Evenglow or delivering meals-on-wheels…  Whatever ministries fill our week, let them be visible signs of how much we care for others.  We can’t just look at someone’s nametag and think that we know them.  We must look more closely at them and find deeper connections with them.  Tonight I show you just a few of the many expressions of love that I have received over the past few weeks.  (These are just a few from this week while I’ve been in St Louis, I’m not sure I’ll ever get them all up)  This isn’t meant as an exercise in vanity or a way to show off.  And I hope that no one feels bad if their card isn’t yet visible on this virtual card wall.  This is meant as a way to remind us that small expressions of love really do matter in this world.  Small expressions of love are what keep us going, smiling, and loving.

Take a look at some of the nice notes I’ve received.  Then—-  don’t send me yet another.  Turn around, grab a piece of blank paper, and start writing a note to someone in your life who might just need a kind word.

Lastly, I ask a favor.  I have tried to “redact” any personal or confidential notes that might embarrass or bother anyone.  If I have inadvertently left something in, or if you wish your note to be removed, please let me know ASAP and I’ll take it down!!!  The last thing I wish to do is cause trouble or discomfort for you!!!

Looking Inward.
Yes, this is my MRI from two months ago and that is my tumor.
We still don’t have a proper name for it.

In just a few hours (at noon) I will be undergoing a special MRI.  The doctors are going to be placing small sensors all over my head and doing a scan that will let them see what they are doing during the surgery.  If you’ve ever seen Dr. Shepherd on Grey’s Anatomy doing a TV version of brain surgery, I imagine it will be a lot like that: without all the distractions, sex and death.  This MRI will be loaded into their equipment on Monday morning and they will be able to see what they are doing inside of my head.

What we were not aware of, until Friday, is that these sensors are kind of like green lifesavers.  That’s not the good part.  Wait for it.  They stick them on my head before the MRI at noon on Sunday and I have to keep them on until (and throughout) the surgery.  Okay, I know that in the grand scheme of things that doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but we planned a big dinner out with some of our family Sunday night.  You know, a last nice meal before the surgery.  Now it appears I’ll be going to a nice restaurant in Saint Louis looking like some sort of Star Trek alien.

Well, at least I won’t actually see anyone that I know.  That’s the upside.  Oh- and it’s the Super Bowl, so we’re likely to be alone in the restaurant, so no one may see me anyway!

On a related note I learned something else recently.  One of my mother-in-law, June Berry’s, friends had a brain surgery and had a stressful experience as she was coming out of anesthesia. As she woke up she found that she was being put into an MRI.  You can imagine that it was all very disorienting for her!  It was a very stressful experience and June’s friend wanted me to be warned about it, especially because it was a similar surgery with my same surgeon at the same hospital.  I have good news.  Well, they do it differently now.  This is the cool part:  They now have an MRI right in the operating room so when they are finished with the surgery and I’m still on the operating table (and still knocked out) they will do an MRI right there and then to make sure there is no swelling, bleeding, and to make sure that no part of the tumor remains.

Isn’t it remarkable that we live in an age where my surgeon can scan my brain and see what he is doing as he operates?  Isn’t it remarkable that we live in a time when we can have MRI’s, which were on their own so rare even just two decades ago, right in the operating room?

Anyway, I just wanted to share a quick update. I hope that this note finds my friends and family doing well and I will be praying for all of you!  May God’s blessings be evident o you all on this Sunday morning!

I am especially praying for those of you at First United Methodist Church Pontiac who are working through the Fruitful Congregations material in my absence.  I pray for the Holy Spirit to be upon you all in this discernment process, to show you a way forward, and to build up your passion and excitement for ministry in our church, community and the world!!!

Blessings & Peace!

Scott

New Year.  New Blog.  New Life.
June 2012, Cancale, France



I have blogged in the past, but the service where I’ve hosted my blog is going away.  So it is time to start over.  Well, that can be a blessing sometimes.  First of all, I’m inviting my wife to contribute to a blog that will belong to both of us.  I thought it might be fun and it will make updates more regular.  Secondly, I’m about to have a major operation.  What a better time to start a blog.  I find myself, more and more, reflecting: on life, God, and my family.


Two years ago I had a very big year.  I graduated seminary, started a new time of ministry at First UMC Pontiac, and got married to my beautiful wife, Carrie.  The past two years have brought a lot of new experiences.  I know what it is to love someone so very much as I love Carrie and yet I’ve experienced the difficulties of learning to be married to someone so different from myself.  I’ve had deep frustrations with the church where I am in ministry and yet found incredible joy in serving there and coming to know these faithful people.  I left a place that I loved (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston) and went to a very different sort of place in rural Illinois…and I’ve loved living here and found good people and good ministry here in Pontiac.


Suddenly, though, I have found myself in the midst of trauma over the past few months.  This church finally faced their financial reality, and so we will be leaving the church as it right-sizes itself from two pastors to one.  In the midst of that process, we discovered that I had a brain tumor.  Then, as had long been planned, the directing pastor left town for more than three weeks for vacation and a renewal of wedding vows with his wife along the Gulf Coast (we had three funerals over ten days during that time).


It’s funny how these things work.  I was so busy running a church of nearly 1000 members that I didn’t have time to consider my own condition.  If you had asked me if I wanted it that way I would have said, “hell no!”  Yet, God has a funny way of putting things in order, sometimes.  With so much transition and so much to do, I found that I was better able to cope.  I was filled with energy and filled with purpose over these past few weeks.  I was also surrounded by an outpouring of love and support by my family of faith as they walked with me during these last weeks.  I am thankful beyond words for the blessings God has shown me over these past weeks.


Now that I am officially on medical leave and I await a surgery in just 7 days I have had a moment to catch my breath and to ponder what is coming.  I can’t imagine my brain surgery failing.  All I can imagine is a year that will be filled with excitement like I experiences two years ago.  I will be sad to leave the people of Pontiac, but I look forward to the adventures that God will give me in a new church, living in a new community and living alongside a strong, confident, and talented wife.  I look forward to the wedding of my sister-in-law to her fiancé and I look forward to a family vacation next fall.  God has given me many great things to look forward to and I look forward to sharing them with you here on our new blog!


God is good, eh?


Scott