Tag Archives: St. Stephen’s University

Experiential Spirituality: An Introduction to Eleven Travel Guides within the Past Five Hundred Years (Part 1 of 7)

IMG_0890The danger of all religions is that the participants will cease to pursue a personal spirituality and rather choose to become content to blindly follow the traditions and rules established by their authority figures. While this decision is encouraged and promoted by some religions, it is antithetical to the Christianity promoted by the early followers of Jesus. Building upon the legacy of Abraham, Moses, and the Jewish Prophets of old, Jesus “quite deliberately remodeled first-century Jewish expectations around himself” [Wright 2011, 117] with an emphasis on relationship with the Living Creator. No longer were the people of God to be called “servants,” rather they would be “friends” of the Creator King [Jn 15:15, NIV].

Writing near the end of his life, the Apostle John pens a letter to the second and third generations of Jesus followers reminding them of their status change.

 “From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.

“We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!” [1 Jn 1:1-4, The Message]

Through the incarnation, the Creator King revealed his desire to walk among his people in a very personal way that goes beyond anything ever known in the ancient world.  No longer was the Creator of Heaven and Earth a distant deity removed from the daily lives of his people. Rather he is a deity who is actively seeking an intimate ongoing personal relationship with each individual, adopting us as sons and daughters [Ga 3:26-4:7] and placing his Spirit into our hearts as a “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” [Ep 1:14, NIV].

While Christianity has for the most part emphasized the need for personal salvation, the “experiential awareness of God’s presence that we see reflected in the New Testament has certainly not always characterized Christian life since” [Thiessen 2015, 1]. However there have always been those within the Christian community who have promoted such an experiential spirituality. This paper will seek draw out examples of experiential spirituality being promoted within Christianity over the past five hundred years (16th to 21st century). The goal of reviewing these examples is to remind readers of the value of experiential spirituality while introducing them to eleven travel guides who have walked the path before them.

To be continued….




Thiessen, Walter. 2015. Inner Healing Prayer. Module notes, St. Stephen’s University, St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada.

Wright, N.T. 2011. Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, And Why He Matters. New York: HaperOne.


Locking Book Safes and Christmas Bazaars

book safe bazaarThe last two weekends were spend talking to folks and trying to sell my special, one-of-a-kind, handcrafted locking book safes at two different Christmas bazaars.

The first one was hosted by Vineyard Boise Christian Fellowship and is one of the biggest craft fair in the area. There were only 80 vendors selling their handcrafted items with over 800 folks coming through the bazaar over the two day event.

I sold a decent amount of book safes the first day and was hoping for even more sales on the second day… however while I talked to more people that Saturday, I only made one sale and that was to a lady who saw the safes the night before. Oh well. 🙂

The second Christmas bazaar was held at a local school and was a LOT smaller (just over 30 vendors). Being the first time the PTO had ever hosted such an event, it wasn’t advertised as well and very slow… luckily I was able to break even with one sale and a partner who split the entry fee.

Over the next few days I will be listing all my book safes on Esty for those of you who might want a great Christmas gift. Remember that all proceeds go to help me attend St. Stephen’s University where I’m studying for my Master of Ministry degree. In other words, not only do you get an awesome gift but you help a young man follow the call of God. 😀

book 1book 2


A Cruciform View of Solomon’s Kingdom

Artist's depiction of Solomon's court (Ingobertus, c. 880)
Artist’s depiction of Solomon’s court (Ingobertus, c. 880)

The golden age of Israel is widely considered to have taken place during the reign of King Solomon. As the human representative of God, Solomon’s rule was said to describe “the various facets of the kingdom of God manifest in his time” [Morphew 2006, 28]. Years later while under the rule of Rome, the people of Israel would use Solomon’s kingdom as a model for what they hopped God’s future kingdom would look like. Jesus, however, challenged the typical view of God’s kingdom and “quite deliberately remodeled first-century Jewish expectations around himself” [Wright 2011, 117]. And since Jesus is the “one true and living avatar of the transcendent God” [Jersak 2015, 83] it is worth paying attention to how Jesus’ view of God’s kingdom contrasts with the view revealed through Solomon reign.

The zenith of Solomon’s kingdom is best recorded in 1 Kings 4. It was during this time that the people of Israel become as “numerous as the sand on the seashore” [verse 20, NIV] in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham [Ge 22:17]. King Solomon defeated Israel’s enemies and ruled over all the people from Tiphash to Gaza with foreign dignitaries and ambassadors flocking to his banquet table. Each day “85 bushels of fine flour, 375 bushels of meal, 10 grain-fed cattle, 20 range cattle, 100 sheep, and miscellaneous deer, gazelles, roebucks, and choice fowl” [verses 22-23, Message] was served. In addition to physical wealth, Solomon had great wisdom and insight given to him by God [verse 29-31]. He wrote 3,000 proverbs, 1,005 songs and knew the ways of the birds, plants, mammals, fish, and reptiles. There was “no aspect of creation” that Solomon could not understand, becoming an “epitome of the Hebrew understanding of the wholeness of life that flows from the rule of God” [Morphew 2006, 30].

In contrast to the riches and glamour of Solomon’s court, Jesus was born and lived among the common people of the land. The angels who announced his birth did so not in the palace of King Herod, but in the fields to simple shepherds [Lk 2:8-15]. The humility of Jesus continued throughout his life with his followers being called friends rather than servants [Jn 15:15]. This is a marked difference from Solomon who conscripted the people of Israel into building his palaces [1 Ki 9:15]. Solomon also enslaved people from neighboring nations [1 Ki 9:21] whereas Jesus brought freedom to the prisoner [Lk 4:18].

In Genesis 12 when God calls Abraham, he tells him that he will be a blessing to the nations [Ge 12:2-3]. This promise was thought to have been fulfilled by King Solomon in that the nations of world came to him seeking wisdom. Jesus, however, transformed the hegemonic kingdom of Solomon into a kenarchy with the people of God commanded to “go and make disciples of all nations” [Mt 28:19, NIV]. No longer were the children of Abraham to be defined by genetics, but the faith of Abraham would spread to all nations with everyone who follows Jesus being called children of Abraham [Rm 9:8].

By expanding the people of God to include the Gentiles, Jesus challenged the identity those who were called enemies of God. Under Solomon and those who followed him, the enemies of the people of God were the Gentile nations around them. Jesus removed the blinders from the eyes of his people to show that it was the devil, evil, sin and death who were their true enemy [1 Co 15:24-26, 1 Jn 3:8]. Through the cross, Jesus defeated the evil one and crushed the head of the serpent that deceived humanity [Jn 12:31-33, Ge 1:15].

celtic cross sunsetJesus’ banquet table also shows a marked contrast to the picture of God’s rule under Solomon. Rather than limiting the table to foreign dignitaries and members of the royal household, Jesus opened up God’s table to the weak, sick, outcast and the common people [Lk 13:29, 14:15-24, Mt 8:11]. Gone also was the Kosher meal restrictions that forbid the people of God from eating with the Gentiles [Ac 10:15]. Jesus himself was to be the bread on God’s banquet table which would bring life to all who partook of his flesh and blood [Jn 6:25-59]. Whereas Solomon’s table reflected the daily bounty of God’s kingdom, God’s table under Jesus transformed into a radically inclusive table from which no one will ever go hungry. The Eucharist feast celebrated by Jesus followers around the world testifies to the power of this new cruciform banquet table.

If there is one thing that history remembers about King Solomon, it is that he was a very wise man. 1 Kings 4:29-34 tells us that he was the wisest man on earth during this lifetime with a “breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore” [verse 29, NIV]. This wisdom, though a gift from God, was still human wisdom. The crucified Jesus, on the other hand, is the “wisdom of God” [1 Co 1:24, NIV] that puts to shame all other wisdom. St. James even goes further, saying that the “wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” [Ja 3:17, NIV]. Jesus, through the cross, shows us that the wisdom of God goes beyond knowing how to govern a country or settle disputes.

The temple is the other thing that history has remembered about King Solomon. This temple was huge, beautiful and considered to be one of the wonders of the ancient world. It was the symbol of God’s presence in Israel and a drawing card for the nations as declared by Solomon in its dedication [1 Ki 8]. Jesus transforms this symbol of God’s kingdom just like he did with all the other facets of God’s rule through Solomon. Through the cross, Jesus declared that the temple was no longer needed. The religious, political and cultural life of the people of God was now to be found in and through Jesus and not through a building. Furthermore the people themselves became the living temple of God, sealed with the Holy Spirit who dwells inside each follower of Jesus [1 Co 3:16].

The last remaining transformation that Jesus completes in our model of God’s kingdom has to do with creation itself. Under King Solomon, all the plants and animals of the land, sea and air were seen as being subject to the rule of humanity. Jesus transforms this view in that he not only was the one who created the heavens and earth, but he also is the one who continues to uphold it [Co 1:16-17]. Jesus is the one true King of the universe, having everything that was, is and is to come under his feet [Ep 1:18-23].

In conclusion, Jesus of Nazareth, “the image of the invisible God” [Co 1:15, NIV], transforms the model of God’s kingdom seen under King Solomon. Rather than being an exclusive hegemonic kingdom for a select few, Jesus transforms it into an inclusive kenarchic kingdom that actively seeks out the lonely, weak, outcast and poor. Gone is the controlling, power-over view of God; instead it was replaced by a consenting, participating, and loving model of a king – a king who died upon the cross for each one of us.



Jersak, Bradley. 2015. A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel. Pasadena, California: CWRpress.

Morphew, Derek. 2006. Breakthrough: Discovering the Kingdom. Cape Town, South Africa: Vineyard International Publishing.

Wright, N.T. 2011. Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, And Why He Matters. New York: HaperOne.

Post SSU Report

ssu classI’m four days back from my trip to St. Stephen’s University (SSU) and still trying to get back into the swing of things. Work, family, odds, ends and all the stuff that you find you miss when you are away for a few weeks. =)

My time at SSU was wonderful. At first I was very uptight and nervous as I didn’t know what to expect from the professors, classmates or even the country (it was odd being in a foreign country that wasn’t all that foreign). The altitude and climate difference also threw me for a loop that first week – causing me retreat into myself and be more introverted than I typically am.

Somewhere over the weekend I found my footings and started coming out of my self-imposed shell. This caused one classmate to comment on that Monday that I was a different person. 😀


I had four classes crammed into those two weeks. Below is a quick outline of these classes:

Spiritual Formation – Lorna Jones, Ignatian Spiritual Director

Drawing on the spiritual formation exercises of Ignatian Spirituality, this class walked us through some contemplative practices – giving us a chance to stop and reflect on what we were experiencing and learning. It was interesting walking through these practices as a group as I’ve always heard them talked about within an individual context. I’m looking forward to introducing some of these practices into my local small group here in Boise. 🙂

Historical theology: Ancient Insights for Today (16th–21st C.) – Dr. Peter Fitch

This was our main class throughout the two weeks. Dr. Peter is a great professor that has a way of encouraging dialogue and drawing out insights from each class member on our required readings. A lot of the book reports that I have posted here over the past few months was written for this class as we had to read writings from Luther, Calvin, Teresa of Avila, Pascal, Herbert, Baxter, Thérèse de Lisieux, Bonhoeffer, C. S. Lewis, Rollins, and others.

ssu class 2Healing through Symbol and Story – Dr. Walter Thiessen

This was one of the most challenging classes as Dr. Walter walked us through inner healing and narrative therapy concepts. Having experienced both freedom and pain through inner healing programs, I was a bit apprehensive about the material… Dr. Walter quickly disarmed me through his love and grace for people. His clinical background coupled with making room for God to work allowed him to lead us all through the sometimes murky waters of inner healing.

Jesus and a More Christ-like God – Dr. Brad Jersak

Drawing off Dr. Brad’s recent book (A More Christlike God), this class took a deep dive into the self-revelation of God through Jesus as seen from below (biblical studies) and above (systematic theology). With a focus on Jesus and the Kingdom of God, I have to admit this was the class I loved the most – it was also taught during the second week, meaning that I had my feet under me and was engaging more. Hopefully I didn’t overwhelm my fellow class members with all my questions… :/ Dr. Brad, by the way, is currently a Reader in an Eastern Orthodox monastery in B.C., Canada – which is really, really cool as I have had a longstanding flirtation with the Eastern Orthodox church for many years.

School Atmosphere

The culture of SSU was really cool. It is a small university with only 50-60~ undergrad students who live in a communal type setting with students and teacher eating and working together. The university also actively encourages questions with no topic off-limits – even topics that would typically be considered off-limits in other Christian universities (not to mention churches). At first this openness threw me as I’m used to being careful about who I talk too about certain topics. Yet after two-weeks this openness grew on me and I started joining in on some of the conversation. 🙂

Well…that’s all for now. I’ll try to post a more touristy post later on with some pictures of the area. Until then, be blessed.

Hanging Out In Canada

IMG_0802Tomorrow is the big day. After years of dreaming and months of work, I will be attending my first Master’s level class at St. Stephen’s University (SSU) in St. Stephen, Canada.

Yep, I am in Canada for the next two weeks attending classes. *much happiness!*

I arrived in St. Stephen’s early this morning at 2 am and crashed. After a few hours of sleep, I rolled out of bed and wondered into St. Croix Vineyard Church. The two pastors of the church are also professors at SSU: Dr. Peter Fitch and Dr. Walter Thiessen.

What’s cool at St. Croix is that they have an early morning Celtic liturgy service followed by a more typically Vineyard style service. I was unable to attend the Celtic service this morning due to my late arrival – but I will do so much week!!! 😀

I would ask for prayer as my allergies are going crazy. Part of it is the cats at my place of lodging; part of it is being in a different part of the country. Regardless, I really would like to be able to think and not have a foggy allergy brain. =/

hmm….what else can I say? Not much is happening at the moment… hopefully I will have some time to post while I’m here. If not, I’ll try to catch you all up afterwards.


Looking east over the bay from a small part just outside of St. Stephen.
Looking east over the bay from a small part just outside of St. Stephen.


thte bay 2
The hill to the far right is Maine. Everything else is Canada.


The Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux

story of a soulBorn in France on January 2, 1873, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus of the Holy Face enter into the Carmelite order in Lisieux at the early age of 15 after pleading her case to Pope Leo XIII. Upon entering Carmel, she joined two of her older sisters who had joined the order before her. Later on a third sister joined the Carmelites, allowing St. Thérèse the joy of being with her biological sisters as walked out her pledge to Jesus. St. Thérèse died in 1897 of tuberculosis at the age of 24, having spent nine years within Carmel. Six

Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, was written in three selections during the last three years of her life at the request of two of her Prioress (i.e. the first nine chapters was written at the request of Mother Agnes while the last two chapters came at the request of Mother Marie de Gonzague). Her biological sister, Mother Agnes, combined St. Thérèse’s writing and published them on the one year anniversary of her death (September 30, 1898). Sixteen years later a cause of Beatification was introduced in Rome with her becoming “Blessed” in 1923. Two years after that St. Thérèse was canonized with a Doctor of the Church declaring coming in 1997. All of these events are very remarkable seeing how St. Thérèse died so young.

The autobiography itself is fairly straight forward as it tells the story of St. Thérèse life from her earliest days as a young toddler to the months leading up to her death. Each chapter is focused on a short time period of two to four years, with chapters six and nine focusing on one year each. The first few chapters are quite remarkable due to the details St. Thérèse remembers of her young life. As the book continues, she starts skipping more and more details, choosing instead to focus on a few highlights that happened during those years.

At first the book seemed to carry with it a sense of pride as she talks about obeying her parents and seeking to follow the ways of the Lord. However the more I read the more I realized that rather than been prideful, St. Thérèse was being overly honest and transparent. While she didn’t go through a ton of outward trials and pains (i.e. she have a good family upbringing, loving parents and sisters, etc.), she had a deep sense of spiritually and self-reflection that caused her to feel pain at every little mistake or selfish act. Her book brings out this self-reflection with a sense of humanity has she seeks to lessen herself and raise to awareness the work of Jesus within her.

In addition to teaching us about how to allow Jesus to work in our lives, St. Thérèse’s book should teach us that children really do matter. They are always listening and watching their parents and older siblings. Instead of dismissing them as too young for spiritual things, we should be encouraging and teaching the young children in the ways of the Lord. The King Himself, after all, beckoned the little ones to himself over the objections of the Twelve. Rather than being the church of tomorrow, children are the church of today and we can learn a lot about following Jesus through them.

The Weight of Glory (Sermon) by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) is one of the most well-known Christian authors of the 20th century having written such works as the Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Problem of Pain, The Screwtape Letters, and The Chronicles of Narnia. In addition to writing, Lewis was a profession of English Literature, holding positions at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities during his career.

The sermon currently being reviewed, “The Weight of Glory,” was originally delivered on Sunday, June 8, 1941 at the Oxford University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. This was nine months after the end of the Battle of Britain and in the middle of War World II. At this point in the war, Germany was actively conquering new territories in Europe while the Britain and Free French forces tried in vain to slow them down. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the United States of America was trying hard not to get pulled into the war (something that would happen six months later on December 7, 1941).

This historical context is very important as Lewis delivers a sermon that ends with the statement that one’s “neighbor is the holiest object presented to [one’s] senses” (page 9). In other words, rather than demonizing the Germans or increasing the fear in the hearts of the people, Lewis sets about to remind people of the intrinsic value of humanity. He does this through by starting off talking about how we humans we typically substitute a negative term for a positive term. This tendency causes us to be “easily pleased” (page 1) with things, virtues or life’s joys rather than pushing through to receive the true rewards promised through the true nature of the rewards.

From there Lewis explores the philological nature of why we work for rewards. As in, do we work to avoid punishment (as a boy who does his homework to avoid the headmaster’s punishment) or do we do it to gain greater rewards in the future (learn Greek, for example, so we can read poetry later rather than just because we have to). During this discussion, Lewis switches from talking about rewards to talking about the human desire for heaven. It is here that Lewis begins to build out his real argument, that is, to establish the fact that humanity was meant for more than just this mortal life. Rather, we were made by God to be with God. Because of this, the highest praise humanity can ever receive is the approval of God like a “child before its father” or a “pupil before his teacher” (page 6).

It is this approval from God that becomes the “weight or burden of glory” that causes to change our actions and behaviors (page 6). Knowing that we were created to glorify the Creator God, we in turn realize that this was in reality our original and deepest desire along. Rather than seeking the rewards of heaven or the escape of hell, we find ourselves instead passionately desire to glorify God. We are capable of this only through Jesus Christ, who opened the door for us to be with God.

After we become aware of our own weight of glory, we are to follow the example of Jesus and care for those around us. In doing so, we realize that “there are no ordinary people” but rather only “immortals” with whom we joke and work with (page 9). The mortal things in life are nations, cultures, arts, civilizations, rather than people. While this may be calm thing to hear in 2015, it was quite the shocker in 1941 when the German nation declared that their culture and civilization was better than everyone else. In making this claim, Lewis was reminding his listeners that people were made in the image of God and worth protecting and loving, regardless of their background. Ant the love that we are to show people “must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner – no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment” (page 9).

In ending, Lewis’ sermon is a powerful reminder of the purpose in which God created humanity and the end goal to which we work towards. Though there will be wars, trials, and problems of all kinds, we are to constant remember that our focus to be loved by God and to please Him in all that we do. Because of this goal, we are to treat our fellow humans with the same love that Jesus showed us. There are, as Lewis said, no ordinary people, only immortals with whom we may spent the rest of eternity with in heaven.

Education Fundraiser: A Support Request

St. Stephens UniversityOver the last 18-years, a lot of you have supported me on mission trips across nine countries on three continents. I am tremendously honored and blessed that you all would trust and believe in me enough to do this. Where one would fail, many succeeded and the message of the Kingdom was proclaimed.

I now ask for your support once again. Only this time instead of a two week mission trip, I am asking for your help in pursuing the Master of Ministry degree that God told me to go after. It is a strange request I know as folks don’t normally ask for this type of thing…but I know I can’t do it alone, hence my plead to you all for your help.

Regular readers will note that I have been talking about St. Stephen’s University (SSU) for many years…and how hard I tried to attend their classes in the Fall of 2013….There was a period in time when I almost gave up on the dream, but the Lord would not let it go. As such, I reached out to SSU and committed to attending classes in Sept 2015. Now I just need to the funds to get there…

Which is where you all come in. 🙂

I have created a PayPal account that is connect to a special educational bank account to accept donations for this endeavor (button below). To help with accountability, I have asked a trustworthy friend, Dr. Larry Pew, to oversee this back account with me to make sure that all donations go to school related expenses. I am also willing to provide a copy of the bank statements to anyone who donates funds as I strive to live as transparent as possible.

As far as the cost goes, the Master of Ministry program is broken into four modules with each module costing approximately $4,000 each. This means that the entire program is about $16,000, which is a steal of a deal for a Masters program (a Masters degree at Fuller Theological Seminary, for example, runs upwards of $27,000).

Below is a breakdown of the costs for the first module:

$2,500 Tuition
$124 Lodging for two weeks
$124 Meals for two weeks
$120 Canada Study Permit
$173 Bus transport (airport to school)
$650 Airplane Ticket
Total: $3,691

Thank you all in advance for your support – both financially and pray wise. Blessings.

Dreams, Hand-Crafted Book-Related Gifts, and Bible School

Once of the cool things that came out of this past seven month ministry sabbatical was a renewed passion to go back to school. As such, I am taking another stab at getting my Masters of Ministry degree through St. Stephen’s University.

To help fund this dream, my wife and I have started an Etsy store (“LibrarsDonum”) to sell some of our hand-crafted book-related gifts. At the moment we have 9 different locking book safes and an embroidered book bag (for keeping books nice inside your backpack) displayed. Below are a few examples of these items:

The outside of a Mark Twain locking book-safe.
The outside of a Mark Twain locking book-safe.
The inside of the book-safe. The key has a magnet on it and when held over the right place on the cover, the lock opens.
The inside of the book-safe. The key has a magnet on it and when held over the right place on the cover, the lock opens.
An embroidered book bag my wife made - designed to keep your books from getting banged up inside your backpack. This one is for larger hardbacks (or several smaller books). She is planning on making some smaller one with another quote later on.
An embroidered book bag my wife made – designed to keep your books from getting banged up inside your backpack. This one is for larger hardbacks (or several smaller books). She is planning on making some smaller one with another quote later on.

Please take a look at our store and consider purchasing something – not only will get a really cool book-related gift, you will also be supporting me in pursing the call of God on my life.


2014 Hopping Family Newsletter

family 2014Dear Friends and Family,

Merry Christmas from Josh, Emily, J and introducing Baby Hopping – for the first time ever we have reached the 4-month mark of a pregnancy! Just a few months after our failed adoption this summer we found out that God had answered J’s frequent prayers for another baby in an unexpected way. After only 2 pregnancies in our whole 14 years of marriage – both of which ended within the first 2 months – we had given up on producing biological children and were happily growing our family through adoption (something that we still believe in strongly and hope to get to do again at some point in the future.) Then J learned how to pray and regularly prayed for God to bring us another baby (in addition to praying blessings for Andrew and his birth-mom who decided to parent) – the faith of a 4-year-old is pretty potent!

Thank you all for your prayers as well – we have really appreciated them throughout 2014 as we have faced a lot of transitions and hard times! We spent this spring finding a new pastor for the Vineyard church in Sweet and getting our house ready to sell. God brought the perfect couple to take our place and the transition was complete and official on June 1, 2014. The house, however, has proven to be a bit tougher of a process – after only one showing since April we put it on the rent market as well as for sale, but we’ve only gotten 3 lookers total even after dropping our price several times. We’ve reconciled ourselves to being here for the winter. It would still be nice to get the move over before the baby is born in early May – being closer to Emily’s parents would make it much easier to get help from Grandma!

J has been thoroughly enjoying his time at big-kid preschool. He was sad to miss school for a week for Thanksgiving – the kids were all giving each other big hugs the week before, missing each other in advance! Every week he comes home with a new letter that he’s learned and picks them out in his bedtime books. They’ve been getting ready for a Christmas concert in a couple of weeks, so he’s been singing a lot of Christmas carols lately (especially Jingle Bells and bits of The Little Drummer Boy.) Emily has been volunteering in his library every-other-week reading books to each of the 7 preschool classes (three 3-yr-old classes and four 4-yr-old classes.)

Josh has been filling the time he used to spend writing sermons with working on the book he started writing a few years ago and has been enjoying it immensely – he’s over half way done with the initial draft and is building his editing team to take it to the next level. He is also looking forward to his first class at St. Stephen’s University next fall. It’s the same module that he started last year and none of the books have changed, so he’ll be able to skim most of the books and has some of the papers already written. Luckily his brain tends to retain such things pretty well, so the fact that it’s been 2 years since he’s read some of these books won’t slow him down much. He’s excited to finally be making some progress forward in the dream of a Master’s degree that God gave him over a decade ago. He’s still been working as a Brand Analyst though his title recently changed to Reporting Analyst – a small change, but one that will free him up to do more pioneering with some investigative reports with which he’s been having great success and a fair bit of recognition throughout the company. Prayers would be appreciated as he moves forward in all of these areas.

Our future is still up in the air as we continue to try to sell the house and pray about God’s next assignment for us. We took a week in the mountains to pray in October and God did give us some first steps – including Josh continuing to pursue his education. The other cool project that we’re going to get to start in January is a family small group with a big focus on outreach and getting the kids involved in all aspects of learning and serving. It’ll give us a good chance to try out some interactive learning styles that we may be able to apply in our next church plant as well as giving us opportunities to do family activities together with other families – J our little socialite will enjoy that! A friend recommended this place: funtopiaworld.com/glenview/, so that might be something to look into as a possible outing with the children.

We’ve been going to church at the Vineyard Boise a lot of Sundays but have also enjoyed visiting the Sweet Vineyard regularly as well – Richard and Mardie, the new pastors, have been doing a really good job keeping things going there and the loving family atmosphere is still such a blessing.

Thanks again for all your prayers and support this year! Thank you all who sent in donations to help with our adoption this summer. Some of those donations will go to cover the expenses that we incurred for the failed adoption and some of them will go to fund another Christian family’s adoption and help a child find a forever home. May the Lord bless you all richly in the year to come. We love you all!

Lots of love and blessings from,

-Josh, Emily, and J