Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spiritual Health and the Church

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about spiritual health.  Partly because we’ve recently found a new church home and partly because of a classroom topic from last week.

In my Formation for Ministry class that meets once a week on Tuesday evenings we talked about loosing our ‘sensual spirituality’ and what to do to get it back.  I raised the question that I wasn’t even sure what the term ‘sensual spirituality’ met.  After all, how can one know what they’ve lost if they never knew if they had it in the first place?

As is was explained to me, sensual spirituality is having a strong sense of the presence of the Lord around now.  Not just a sense that he’s there watching over you in some sort of abstract way, rather it’s a sensibility that he is right there in the room with you, sitting next to you.  You feel as though you could reach out and touch him. 

OK, so now that I understood, at least partially, what he was talking about, I raised the concern that there were many people who didn’t have an experience like that and if they did it was usually during a specific circumstance, like during the death of a loved or some other difficult time in their life.  However, I raised some doubt about the fact that this ‘sensual spirituality’ is something that the ‘average’ person has on a regular basis.  I seemed to get some nods of approval from some of my classmates when I raised this concern and this seemed to surprise our professor a little.  This begs the question what does a healthy spiritual life look like? 

At church we’ve been trying to see about getting involved in a small group.  This is proving to be a little challenging partly because established groups are comfortable with each other and a bond of trust and acceptance has been achieved.  Also, size is always an issue – if a group gets too big, it gets too intimidating. 

This, of course, begs the question what to do when a new family joins the church.  How does a church enfold a new family in a way that doesn’t disrupt what’s already there?  How can we be open to the new without disrupting the old?  Where is that balance?

These questions tie in, I think, with that concept of spiritual health.  Part of being spiritually healthy is internal, your personal sense of who God is and what he is doing in your life.  That’s important but if you’re a spiritually healthy individual, you need to be able to translate that into being a spiritually healthy group (church).  A church community is only as spiritually healthy as the individuals that make it up. 

Part of being spiritually healthy is enfolding and embracing others.  This is both necessary and challenging because it requires the group (the church) and the individual (the members that make up that church) to work together in such a way that stretches them both which in turn helps everyone to find their ‘sensual spirituality’. 

This is really a dissertation topic, not a blog entry, so I haven’t done the topic justice here by any stretch.  I guess my challenge to you (and myself) is being the hands and feet of Jesus requires having our own sense of  who God is and being willing to share it – especially when it stretches us.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Church Home

Some time ago, I wrote a blog about choosing a church home.  That process is a daunting one in Grand Rapids as there are no less than a dozen CRC churches within about a three mile radius of our home.  What’s a family to do?

Well, we felt like it was important for the kids that we find a church home before all of the educational activities got under way.  This goal put us on a bit of a time crunch, but we were OK with that.  Sometimes to many choices can be paralyzing causing the inevitable to be delayed.

Anyway, we settled on Seymour CRC.  The congregation has a good range of age groups, a wonderful pastor, and good programs for the kids. Both the older two are in Sunday School, Cadets, and GEMS. Jessica is singing in the choir, and I’m still determining what I’m going to get involved in.

The congregation has around 400 members or so and they’ve been very friendly and welcoming.  We are hoping to get involved in some sort of small group Bible study soon.  We’ve really missed our group that we had in Sioux Center and are looking forward to getting involved with one here.

The pastor at Seymour, Phil De Jonge, has agreed to be my vocational mentor which I’m very pleased about.  He has a great demeanor and will be a great role model for me.  I’m really looking forward to learning from and with him.

So slowly but surely we are feeling more and more at home here.  We hope we continue to build relationships in our new church home.  We will continue to pray that those relationships will be fostered and developed during our time at Seymour.  We want to be blessed and be a blessing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I’m not crazy

One of things that you have to do at seminary (at least at Calvin), if you want to go into full-time parish ministry, is to take a psychological assessment.  It’s designed to see what kind of a person you are – socially, emotionally, psycho-socially, etc.  It’s a three step process that I’ll talk about in a minute, but I have to say that I was kinda nervous about the whole thing.  I’ve never been evaluated like that before but now that it’s over – it wasn’t too bad.

OK, so back in the beginning of September, I took a written psychological test, and it was killer.  It consisted of forty complete the sentence type questions, followed by a series of questions (maybe 30 or so) about how you handle yourself in certain social situations, followed 750 (that is not a typo) true and false questions.  These questions ranged from questions about my health to my views about homeless people.  It took about three hours to complete the whole thing and it was exhausting.

This is followed by an interview with a psychologist which I also had in September.  Spouses were encouraged to come too, so Jessica and I went to the appointment together and met with Bill to discuss my life up to this point.  They call it a background interview and they ask questions about my past, what I think my tendencies are, how I feel about and conduct myself, if I like my parents (I said yes, mom and dad) --  that sort of stuff.

The psychologist takes both of the interview info and the written test data and puts them together in a final report that I met with him about yesterday – the third and final step.  It was a good meeting and he basically confirmed the fact that I’m a relatively normal, well-adjusted, angst free person. No red flags.  I know, I know, the relatively normal part surprises many of you, but now it’s been established via a third-party professional! 

Anyway, all in all, it was a good process.  It affirmed some things about myself that I already knew – for example, I’m an administrative type person – I like responsibility and I handle it well.  It also told me I need to do a better job of listening and not be too quick to jump to conclusions – I knew that already too.  So it was an affirming exercise and, I think, another way of God confirming that this is where I need to be right now. 

So, I’m fit for ministry – at least, mentally.  We’ll see what the rest of the semester brings!  I repeat…I’m not crazy, contrary to popular belief.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Reading Week

It was “reading week” this week – we didn’t have regular classes this week, giving us the opportunity to catch up.  They also offer some ‘skill development courses’ which are one-week intensives on a variety of topics. I participated in the Hebrew Review Class this week to provide me some additional help and make sure I didn’t get too far behind.  It met for three hours a day Monday thru Thursday.  In addition, I worked a few hours in the Admissions Office and did some other studying.

This week also allowed me to spend just a little time reflecting on what has all happened to our family in the last several months.  Saturday, October 9th marked exactly three months since we arrived in Grand Rapids.  I was astounded this week at what has changed for us in that time – new home, new schools,  new church, new  friends, new routines, new jobs.  It’s been a whirlwind and through it all God has been so good.  We’ve had relatively few difficulties during this time of transition and the challenges that have presented themselves have been relatively minor.  We are blessed.

Yesterday afternoon was a beautiful fall day here in Grand Rapids.  Jessica had to sub in the afternoon, the older two kids were at school, and I didn’t have class, so I had the rare opportunity to spend several hours alone with Alex.  After we had lunch, we put on our jackets and went for a walk around the neighborhood.  He’ll be twenty months old soon and he’s learning so much.  We looked at the white clouds against the blue sky, we looked at the leaves both on the trees and on the ground, talked about being careful while crossing the street, pointed to an airplane in the sky, and waved to everyone that rode by in their ca-ca’s (cars). 

During that forty five minutes or so it occurred to me that I’m a lot like him.  There are so many things that I’ve learned in just a few months here and there are so many more things that I need to learn and will learn during my time at Calvin Seminary.  I’ve been in school about six weeks and I’m astounded at what I’ve already learned.  I also know how much I have to learn.

Alex has much to learn too, including how much both Jesus and I love him.  I too, still have a lot to learn about how much Jesus loves me.  I’m here to learn from others and I hope Alex (and all my kids) can learn from me.  That means I need to be a good example to them and continue to rely on appreciate God’s goodness and faithfulness and make sure I tell them who they are and whose they are. 

On that short walk Alex also taught me that, in the craziness of life, I need to stop and be amazed at clouds and leaves.  It’s right and good and necessary. 

It’s amazing what you can learn in 45 days at a seminary.  It’s even more amazing what you can learn in 45 minutes on a walk with a toddler. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Family Reunion

We were privileged to have my family here for the weekend.  It was Grandfriends Day at the kids’ schools on Friday so my mom and dad decided to make the trip out to attend, which the kids were very excited about.  In the process of planning for that trip my brother Paul and his family decided to join them.  In addition, my grandmother was able to ride with my parents too.  They all stayed in Holland/Zeeland with Mark and Kelli and for a few days we were all within just a few miles for each other.

It was a great few days…we ate, laughed, swam, caught-up and just enjoyed each others company.  The support of family (both mine and Jessica’s) has been so critical to this process for us.

  Earlier in the week, the stress of school, work, and family got the best of me and I was in a bit of a ‘funk’ and I couldn’t figure out why.   Well, we had just been to Jessica’s family and after getting back from that I realized I was maybe a little homesick.  It took me a while to come to that realization because I’ve never been homesick before!  So their trip here was just what the doctor ordered.

I was particularly glad that my grandmother was still healthy enough to make a trip like that.  I’ve missed seeing her every Sunday in church – even if all we did was say hello. It was great to see her again!

I continue to appreciate more and more the support of loved ones in this endeavor.  I know the Lord provides, and one of the ways he provides is through using others.  Thanks to all of you (both family and friends) for your providential provision for me and my family.  You are truly a gift to us.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Crazy Week

It’s been a crazy week at the Ten Haken’s.  We received a call on Monday from Jessica’s family that her (paternal) grandmother was failing rapidly and would likely pass away before the end of the week.  Well, we got the call early Wednesday morning that she died peacefully early Tuesday morning and she went home to meet her heavenly father after 88 years here on earth.  This was not an unexpected event as she had been in the hospital for several weeks prior to this. 

So all day Wednesday we made plans to travel to St. Catharines for the visitation and funeral.  That meant contacting the kids’ schools to get homework for Thursday and Friday, it meant Jessica cancelling some planned subbing at Dutton Christian School on both those days and it meant me arranging things with both work and school.  Oh, and it also meant finding a hermit crab sitter!  Thanks to our great neighbors, the Yondo’s, for helping us out with that.

The plan was for me go to class yet on Thursday morning (I’ve got church history from 8:00 until 9:15) while Jessica got the kids and the car ready.  She’d pick me up from the seminary and we’d hit the road.  She could drive, while I studied.  Great….

Well, during the night Wednesday night, Jessica got the flu.  She was up a lot in the night and by the time Thursday morning came around she was in no condition to be driving a vehicle, much less finish packing the kids and the car for the trip.  So, I got up early and went to campus, made arrangements to miss my AM class and came back home to pack the car. We hit the road about 9 and Jessica (tried to) sleep while I drove.

We arrived safe and sound at her parents in the late afternoon and got ready for the visitation.   Jessica and the kids stayed home from that and I went with the rest of her family.  I must admit it was strange to be there as an in-law and without my better half, but everyone was very gracious and I was glad to be able to be there.

Jessica woke up today feeling much better and was able to attend the funeral which was a true celebration of a full life lived before the face of God.  Jessica’s grandmother left a wonderful legacy of faith for all those that knew her and we’ve enjoyed our time here with family.  Pretty much  everyone was here so it was good opportunity for the aunts, uncles, and cousins to see each other and reconnect.

So, I’ve been trying to keep up with studying by doing a little this afternoon and hopefully tomorrow.  We are planning to head back home on Sunday sometime.  I missed both Hebrew and Bible Survey on Friday, so I’ll do my best to stay on top of those while we’re here.  I did miss a Hebrew quiz on Friday that I’ll be able to make up on Monday. 

It was good that we now live close enough to be able to make this rather quick trip to be with the family and attend the funeral.  Please pray for a safe trip back on Sunday and for no one else to get sick.  And give thanks to God for the legacy of faith that families pass down from one generation to the next.