Monday, June 25, 2007

Writer's Block

I know it's been too long since I posted (if you roam around the internet you'll notice that a huge proportion of blog entries start that way...).

These past few weeks have been hard. So many people told us in the beginning that you get homesick all over again after six months or so, and I didn't believe a single one of them. As much as I missed my family and friends and house and town when we first got over here, I wasn't really all that homesick--I didn't have that chronic achy feeling where you don't feel like doing much and too many things make you sad. I didn't have that sense of joylessness or fear that homesickness breeds, not then.

I have it all now.

We had lunch with one of several new friends over here who are leaving this summer. Julie and I talked about how we were feeling, and this friend had some words of wisdom for us. When you first arrive, she said, there is a period of being welcomed--of being greeted and hosted as new people in the community. That certainly happened for us. The people of ACL were great at welcoming us, having us into their homes and offering help. One person took Julie to Costco on our third day here, which was a lifesaver, and we've experienced all kinds of helpful gestures since then that have helped us get started.

But after being welcomed, our friend said, the focus shifts from being hosted to making a life. Throughout this first six months we've lived as guests--keeping our relationships in California and hosting so many people from there that we put off making friends here. Now don't get me wrong--the visits from home were nothing short of miraculous in the way they injected life into our settling-in process. Just check any one of the posts below to see how much we enjoyed the family and friends who have been here. We have more on the way and we can't wait for them to get here.

Julie named the problem the other day--we have to give up some (not all) of our life as we new it in the States if we're ever going to make a life for ourselves here. More importantly, we have to shift our focus from home to this new place if we're ever going to be effective ministers here. That's an overwhelmingly sad thing for me right now--it's something that I don't want to do, even as I am more convinced than ever that it's exactly what our lives require right now.

In old police shows there was often a chase across rooftops. The cop would pursue the perp up the stairs and onto the roof, and at one point he would have to take a running leap from one building to the next. I compare our next step to that leap. In order for us to take the next step--in order for us to get our hands on the life God has led us to here in London--we have to jump off the life we've been living and onto the next one.

Right now, I'll confess, I feel like the slow-footed cop who makes the leap but doesn't quite make it across--you know the one, the guy who is hanging from the edge of the building and needs a hand to get back on safe ground. I need that hand. I need a reminder from God (or anyone) that this is where we're supposed to be. That we have something to offer--and learn--from our experience here in London and at this church. If you're idly looking for something to pray about, can I ask you for help on this?

I don't run nearly as fast as I used to.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The London Wetland Centre

Last week I was a parent chaperon for a science trip with Ian's class. What a blast. The Centre is a reclaimed wetland preserve with all sorts of waterfowl, bugs and other creatures. The displays were great, the guide was a good teacher, and the kids were a blast. I was assigned four students (including Ian), and we spent the day together. I gave them a team name (The Ducks), and for the whole time when I called for the Ducks, my four kids ran over to me.

Here are some snaps from the day.

Ian's class (he's in the front row...)
We dipped nets into a pond and pulled up all kinds of living things--snails, mites, water scorpions, and even tiny leeches.
This woman was the guide from the Centre--she did a great job of showing the kids the little creatures, and also teaching them how to care for nature in the process.
OK, so this isn't a real dragonfly, but when you walked by it there was a great buzzing sound.
Ian sailing across the zipline at the adventure play area.

These were my Ducks...

Monday, June 04, 2007

News Flash!

(There are a handful of new posts below, but this one needed to go at the top of the page for a while.)

Today I have some exciting news. I just signed my first book contract (I'm trying not to shout that). Oxford University Press is going to publish my dissertation under the working title:

A Place at the Table:
George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America

The manuscript is due on 1st September, so I'll be wrapping it up during our vacation in California this summer. There isn't much writing to do--mostly I just need to format it for the editors at OUP.

So many of you listened patiently over the last few years as I worked out this story in my head. Family members, friends, colleagues at Union Rescue Mission, Fuller Seminary and the Presbyterian Foundation, and especially our small group at Glendale Presbyterian Church--all of you have been such good friends during this process. This is one of many times I plan to say thank you to you all.

Anyway, that's my news. Back to the regular postings below.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

More catching up to do...

OK, so it’s been a while since I posted anything.

Life has been really busy. Mostly it’s been good stuff—working with some folks who want to get new ministries started here, continuing the process of understanding the complicated funding model at the church, and interviewing and selecting a new pastoral assistant to replace our outgoing associate pastor. Also, we all got colds that laid us out for a few days each. Ian ended up at the Dr., and it turned out he had a respiratory infection. He’s fine now, but that gives you an idea of what our lives have been like.

By the way, we’ve now had two interactions with the NHS, and both were stellar. Ian had an infected tooth, and we weren’t registered with a dentist yet. I called the place nearest to our GP, and they made an appointment on the spot. We got there, they took Ian in at the exact time of his appointment, and he was out (minus the bad tooth) in less than 20 minutes. The dentist and his assistant were great. No bill, no nothing, except two grateful parents. For his cough, he was seen the same day that we called, and sent home with antibiotics (banana flavored) and some cough syrup. The Dr. was nice and Ian is getting better.

Now I'm not Michael Moore (I'll pause for laughter on that one), but if we allow the point of health care to be about, well, health care, then I have to say that it's been great here so far. We still have a private insurance overlay on our NHS coverage, but so far we have nothing but good things to say about the access, courtesy and quality of our health care in London.

Anyway, below are some posts from recent events. Enjoy.

Our trip to Scotland...

Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. No matter how many times I've been back there--after living there for the better part of a year--I'm still surprised by how this place can take my breath away. But apart from the scenery, we have some great friends up there. We stayed with the Grieves, and got to spend time with their kids and families, which is great. I've know this family for 15 years now, and all of them have been to visit us in the States.

This is the view from behind Arthur's Seat, one of the volcanic formations that give Edinburgh its distinctive character. The crown-shaped steeple off in the distance is St Giles' Cathedral.

This is the East end of the Royal Mile--that building through the gate is Holyrood Palace, the official Scottish residence of the Queen and royal family.

This is the front of the new Scottish Parliament building. Mike Grieve drives government officials around, and gave us the insider's tour of the building, which was great.
Julie with Jayne, one of the Grieves' kids. She's got a new wee'un named Kate that Ian loved playing with.
See what I mean?

Julie with Kelly, the fiance of Neil Grieve. While I was there they asked me to participate in their wedding, which I will be honored to do.

Ian with Kate and her daddy, Lee.
We took a drive down the Firth of Forth, and stopped at the marina in North Berwick. It was chilly and windy, but every so often the sun would peek out. This is what Scottish sunbathers look like.
Another shot of the marina.
Ian and Catherine Grieve at North Berwick.

That's us on the coast of North Berwick.
Ian and I walked out to the end of the rocks and got someone to take our picture.
There he is...

A Scottish Nature Centre (that's spelled correctly)

So on our visit to our friends in Scotland, we stopped by the Dobbie Butterfly Centre, near Edinburgh. It turned out to be better than we thought, with all kinds of critters and flowers. Ian loved it, and enjoyed seeing some of the the beautiful creatures on view.

One of the flowers in the butterfly room.
The biggest Boa any of us had ever seen--more than a foot in diameter at its widest point.
None of us took this guy up on his offer to hold the spider.

Some butterflies...

The Little Prince

The Victoria and Albert Museum has events on Saturdays where kids can come in and do crafts from another culture. We went a while back and learned a bit about symbols from Ghana. The kids where then allowed to choose their favorite symbols and jewels, and press them onto a cloth crown.

Here's Ian working on his crown with Julie.
And here's the, er, Ghanaian Prince Ian. Very cool.