Saturday, September 25, 2010

Depending on Grace

This week has been a challenging one for me in a couple of different ways.  For starters, I’m not picking up Hebrew as well as I’d like.  I took my second Hebrew quiz on Friday and I felt going into it that I had a pretty good handle on the material.  However,  methinks I was proven over-confident.  So, I decided to solicit the help of a T.A. – someone to tutor me through some of my rough spots.

Big deal, you say…there’s nothing wrong with getting a little extra help when you need it (maybe especially with something like Hebrew).  However, I’m having a hard admitting to myself that I need help.  I’ve always been the type of person who thinks he can do it all – sometime to a fault.  I hated the fact that I needed to ask for help.  It seems like everyone else has got it figured out, why can’t I?  What I discovered later, that what I really needed was grace.

Shortly after that request for help went out via e-mail to a TA, I sat down to read my assignment for my Formation for Ministry (FFM) class.  For this week, I had to read a good portion of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together and I found it to be challenging in a wholly different way than Hebrew.

While Hebrew is challenging because it’s hard, the Bonhoeffer reading was challenging because it was convicting.  You see, Bonhoeffer talks about the life a Christian being one that is completely and totally characterized by the grace of God found in Jesus Christ.  We cannot understand Christ without understanding grace and we can’t experience that grace outside the fellowship of believers.

The only reason we can do anything is because of God’s grace, I get that.  However, it’s hard for me, and I think many Christians, to fully embrace the wonderful gift of grace found in Christ Jesus our Lord.  In order for us to truly understand the extreme grace when been given in Jesus Christ, we need to admit that we need it – alot of it.

For me having to get some help in Hebrew was admitting that I needed grace.  I can’t do it myself, and I came to realize that I shouldn’t expect to be able to do it all on my own.  After all, we don’t do anything on our own, do we.  So being humbled by Hebrew and admitting that I need the help and support of those around me was a perfect way for me to better understand the importance of Bonhoeffer’s words in Life  Together when he says that Christian fellowship is, “found solely in Jesus Christ …the community of Christians spring solely from the Biblical and Reformation message of the justification of man through grace alone…”

I am a member of that community of Christians – and I am a recipient of that profound grace and that means that I must be able to humbly accept it from the members of that community knowing full well that they’ve received it too.  Then maybe, just maybe, admitting we need help, removing the facade of perfection, and asking our brothers and sisters in Christ for wisdom and guidance and prayer becomes a sign of strength rather than weakness.

I’m learning, too, that I need to give as much grace (if not more) than I’ve received.  How can I receive it without also giving it?  Doing anything less would make me a hypocrite, which I’m already pretty good at.  Grace isn’t grace until it’s been given.

So the Lord continues to work in mysterious ways using the challenges of Hebrew alongside a challenging reading assignment from a different class to help me see more clearly the grace that I need to give and, more importantly, that grace I need to receive from others and have received because of what Christ has done for all of us.  Praise be to God for his indescribable gift on which I am, at all times and in all situations, wholly dependent.

P.S.  I feel a sermon coming on…watch out world!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

School as work

One of my biggest concerns about going back to school was dealing with the fact that I wouldn’t be getting up and going to work everyday, as I’ve done almost every weekday for the last twelve years or so.  However, once again, God has proven to take care of that as well.

Since this past week was my first full week of classes I was able to establish a routine that I think will work pretty well.  For the most part, I’ve tried to treat my school as my job which, in essence, it is.  In God’s good providence I’ve got an 8:00 class everyday, which forces me to get up and get going in the morning.  So being at school everyday by 7:45 or 7:50 was just like my work schedule. 

Since most of my classes are in the morning (I have one night class on Tuesday nights) I have class no later than 12:30 on any given day.  However, rather than just going home, I’ve been staying at the seminary to study until around 5:00 or so.  This has allowed me to really focus on my studies for several hours in an uninterrupted fashion.  While I do have a basement study at home, I’m afraid that if I tried to do more studying at home, there’d be too many distractions.

So I get home around 5:00 or so and am able to dedicate the evening to the family until the kids go to bed.  Then if necessary, (and it usually is) I can put in another hour or two of studying downstairs.

This has also worked well for my job in the Admissions office.  I usually put in about 3 hours in the morning on Tuesday and Thursday since on those days I’m done with class at 9:30 already.  Then I still have the afternoons to study before heading home at five.

So even in this we’ve found the Lord to be faithful.  So far, I’ve been able to keep everything balanced.

Oh, and guess what else Michael is learning?  The ability to say No.  As some of you may know, I’ve had a rough time with that in the past, but I’m learning.  I was nominated to serve as a class rep on the Seminary Student Senate, which would have added about four hours of work a month to my schedule.  However, even though it would have been something that I would have enjoyed, I respectfully declined.  Jessica was quite pleased!   =)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


One thing I’ve learned during my life is that communication is critical in just about any and all circumstances.  I’ve decided that, in most situations, it is almost impossible to over-communicate.  Sure, you can run on about a subject and repeat yourself repeatedly over and over again (see!) but overall, clear, effective communication is absolutely essential in order to accomplish just about anything.

Communication is also important in this age of ‘no-news-is-good-news’.  I really dislike that mentality.  I try, as much as possible, to let people know when I appreciate them.  And, apparently, there are some of you that try to do the same.  I’ve been uplifted this week by several communications that I received from readers of this blog and others.

Just last week the whole family, for no special reason at all, got a “thinking of you” care package.  It had a little something for everyone and it arrived on our doorstep to much excitement. Thanks, Mom!

This week already, we’ve received three e-mails from friends and relatives just letting us know that they’ve been thinking of us, praying for us, and missing us.  It’s so great to be remembered and to think about and be grateful for, the network of people that are holding us up in prayer.  We love all of you.

Speaking of prayer, we had one more communication this week that was truly an answer to prayer.  Zachary’s teacher called just to let us know that he is doing very well in school.  She said he is participating well in class, making friends, and doesn’t seem to be having any trouble fitting in.  Transitioning to new schools was one of our biggest concerns and by all accounts both kids seem to be doing extremely well.  We are praising the Lord for that.

So thank you for all your prayers, for staying in contact with us, for thinking of us, and for remembering us.  We are so grateful to be a part of the family of God along with all of you.  So keep the communication coming and we’ll do our best to be faithful respondents! 

Sunday, September 12, 2010


This week will be the first full week of school for everyone.  We had last week (a short one) to get our schedules sorted out and we think we’ve got a routine that will work for the whole crew.

Zachary has to be at school at 7:45, I’ve got to be at school by 7:55, and Bethany doesn’t have to be at school until 8:30, so what do we do about bedtimes and wake-up times?  We decided to have them go to bed and get up at the same time (well, Zach gets to stay up a little later since he doesn’t seem to need as much sleep as Bethany).  So at 6:50am their alarms go off.  Mine goes off at 6:00 and I’m generally showered, dressed, and had my coffee and devotions by the time they come down around 7:00 dressed for school. 

After breakfast and our goodbyes, Zachary and I hop on our bikes at around 7:30 and head to school.  He has about a seven minute ride to school and I got about a 20 minute, 3-mile ride.  After we leave, Bethany sits down and practices her piano and violin before school and then about 8:20 or so Jessica put her and Alex in the car and brings her to school.

Zachary gets home about 3:00 and does his piano and bass practicing right away and is done with that by the time Jessica has picked up Bethany for school (she gets out at 3:35).  After a snack,  they usually play outside with their friends or watch some TV. 

I get home around 5:00 and we do the usual…play with Alex, supper, relax, play, and/or homework with the kids, packing lunches and bags, and then baths/showers and bed from 8:00 to 8:30.  After bedtime, I usually head downstairs for some studying and come up about 10:00 for some TV, time with Jessica, and much needed sleep.

Jessica’s day is filled with keeping track of Alex, making sure everyone is where they need to be, errands,  grocery shopping, and general household engineering.  She’s the greatest.

So  that’s a day in the life….stay tuned for more gripping tales from the Family Ten Haken.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Regular Classes Begin

Regular classes started for three of the five of us this week.  Zachary and Bethany had their first day on Tuesday and by all accounts it went very well.  Their were things to get used to, of course, but they both seemed to enjoy their teachers and said they’ve been making friends.  Of course, mom and dad always want to know more than what they tell us, but from what we can get out of them they’re doing fine.  Both of them are taking Spanish which is great, but new.  Zachary really likes his science teacher, Mr. DeBoer.  He has also decided to play the string bass in the orchestra so he goes to practice a few days a week for that as well.  Bethany is practically begging to ride her bike to school like Zach gets to, but so far, we haven’t let her.  It’s still quite a hike, but to her it’s mom and dad being to protective. 

My first day of regular classes was today.  I started out at 8AM with Hebrew.  This first class wasn’t hard, but I think overall, Hebrew will be a very challenging course for me.  It’s something that I’m going have to be very diligent and consistent with, committing time to it every day.  After convocation I had Bible Survey which will be a very interesting course exploring each book of the Bible for its major themes and ideas.  I’m looking forward to that class.    I also meet with my mentor group on Wednesday afternoons which we did today.  Tomorrow I have Church History I and will spend a few hours in the Admissions Office. 

It will be a different kind of schedule for me again, keeping all of my assignments and coursework straight.  I’ll just have to be really organized, I guess.

Oh, and Jessica went back to school today too – sort of.  She got called to substitute teach this morning in the 4th grade at Dutton Christian School for a sick teacher.  That went well for her and she has already been put on the schedule for later in the month.

   Those last minute calls require some creative maneuvers to coordinate schedules but we found a way today – even if it meant strapping Bethany’s bike to Alex’s burley behind my bike to get her from school so she had something to ride home, since Jessica had the car for work!  Yep, it was quite the sight, I’m sure.

So that’s a day in the life of the Ten Haken family and a microcosm of what the school year will look like for us all.  Stay tuned for more details.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

Friday was my last day of “Gateway Orientation” and it went very well.  It consisted of hearing 5 sermons in 5 days followed by a time of Q&A and analysis of the passage with each preacher.  It was a good exercise and we heard some really great sermons.  All of them were good preachers and each message was very different, which was great to see and hear.

I also found out that I passed my Reformed Confessions placement test.  That means that I tested out of that class so I’ll get the credit for it without having to take the class.  That is great for several reasons – first, taking the test only cost me $50 whereas taking the class would have cost me $1150; second, it means one less class I have to take this semester so I can ease into this a little more and will be able to balance work and home and (last but not least) Hebrew; third, it gave me a little confidence that maybe I can do this school thing after all!

Anyway, this weekend will be just a time to relax before we start school in earnest.  Zachary and Bethany start school on Tuesday and I’ll begin regular classes on Wednesday.  Each of the kids’ schools had open houses this week where the got to see their rooms and meet their teachers.  I think they’re ready for school to start and we feel good about their schools and teachers.

The biggest thing to get used to is that Zachary’s school day starts and ends 45 minutes before Bethany’s.  This affects how we do bedtime and morning routines and after school routines,  but I think we’ve got it all worked out.  We’ll know soon enough….

We don’t have any weekend plans really, we will get some things organized for school and run a few errands.   On Labor Day there is a little celebration downtown that we’ll most likely go to.  They’ve got activities for the kids and the Gerald R. Ford museum is free that day so we’ll check that out too.