Monday, November 29, 2010

The Holidays

Well, we had a great time at Jessica’s family for the holidays.  I commented on Facebook last week that I was suffering from a holiday identity crisis since we were in Canada for American Thanksgiving to celebrate Christmas!  Regardless, a good time was had by all.  We all got spoiled…so much so, I could barely fit it all in the car on the way home.  Additionally, we were able to be there for Jessica’s mom’s birthday which was on Friday.  So we celebrated a lot!

We also had the annual debate about how early is too early to start doing the ‘Christmas thing’.  You know, playing the music, decorating the tree and the house, etc.  In Canada, they don’t have the Thanksgiving holiday to sort of delineate the start of the Christmas season, so they tend to start a little later with all the festivities.   The fact that we did Christmas this early is very unusual for them since there isn’t the ability to combine celebrations like in the U.S.

Jessica will tell you that I’m a stickler for not doing anything Christmas related until AFTER Thanksgiving.  Not because I’m a scrooge – I love Christmas – but because I really love Thanksgiving. 

I love the whole of idea of being thankful for an entire day.  In this age of entitlement thankfulness has become somewhat of a lost art.  We expect too much of ourselves and of those around us and we assume that we deserve things that we don’t.  I wonder what the world would look like if we didn’t expect anything and were therefore surprised and thankful whenever we received anything.  That’s probably swinging the pendulum too far the other way, but maybe thinking that way will cause us to strike a happy medium.

I also love the fact that Thanksgiving is just weeks before the greatest reason for thankfulness any of us could need – the birth of Jesus Christ. 

So enjoy this season of advent and anticipation…and thankfulness.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Travel

Well,  I’m on the plane back to Grand Rapids.  I had a wonderful time in Sioux Center and Worthington catching up with family and friends.  Thanks to my Grandma Douma for letting me stay and her place a few nights and thanks to my mom for the great Sunday dinner!However, so many people asked about Jessica and the kids, so I really wish they could have been with me.  It makes me all the more anxious to go back in December with the whole family.  We miss our family and friends there very much, but as I told so many people this weekend we are really feeling settled and blessed in Grand Rapids.  This is where God wants us to be right now and we praise the Lord for that.

It was surreal to be back.  In some ways it seemed like I never left, but I have to keep reminding myself that we’ve only been away for four months.  It just seems like so much longer, I think, since our family has been through so many changes in that time.  Example, I stepped back into Faith CRC on Sunday morning and also went to go check my church mailbox!! =)

Tomorrow we are headed to Jessica’s family to celebrate Christmas over American Thanksgiving….so we are getting our holidays all mixed up.  But it will be great to see them again too.  It’s good to be so much closer for that trip.

Well, we are beginning our descent and it won’t be long before the stewardess will me to ‘turn off and stow my electronic device.’

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

30,000 foot post

I don’t have much to say this morning, but I just thought I should post something since the flight that I’m on this morning is offering free Wi-Fi.  Now I can say, I posted to this blog from 30,000 feet above Lake Michigan.  It just sounds cool.

I’m actually on my way to Sioux Center for a few days.  As you may recall,  I work on a part-time basis for the seminary Admissions Office and I offered to head to Dordt College this weekend to do some recruiting on behalf of the seminary.  So I left GR this morning at 8:00 and will spend the weekend seeing family and friends, visiting a few churches on Sunday,  and then spend Monday at Dordt visiting with prospective students and hosting a dinner for them before flying back first thing Tuesday morning.  It’ll be a quick, but fun, trip.  I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing about my days in Admissions at Dordt – good times.

Anyway,  maybe I’ll see some of you, my faithful readers, this weekend.  And if not, I’ll be back in the area for the holidays – with the whole family. 


Friday, November 19, 2010

Grace Abounds

In seminary (particularly a reformed one like Calvin) we talk a lot about grace – what it is, where it comes from, how it manifests itself, etc.  So it’s something that I’ve done much listening and thinking about.

I had two experiences this week that proves (at least to me) that grace abounds if you’re willing to look for it and appreciate it when it presents itself

First of all, I got to the bus stop this week Monday morning and reached in my bag to get out my bus pass and it wasn’t there.  I had taken my wallet out the night before and forgot to put it back.  No pass and no fare money – now what?  I stepped on the bus and told my driver my dilemma, so which she replied, “Don’t worry about it.”   I smiled and said a hearty thank you and promised that I would swipe my card twice the next morning to which she replied again, “Don’t worry about it.”

The second one happened just this afternoon.  We had a turn signal light go out on our van.  I brought it a local repair shop that I’ve been using for oil changes and a few other minor things (new headlight, wiper blades, etc.) and asked if they could fix it.  He head guy, Fred, said he could he didn’t have the right lamp.  He said I could go down to the auto parts store at the end of the strip mall and buy one and he’d install it for me.  “Great!” I said, “I’ll be right back”.  The store had the correct lamp, so I spent my five bucks and headed back to the repair shop.  He got the front end apart and replaced it – he had to monkey with it a while but he got it – and put my headlamp lens back on.  I thanked him, and asked him, “How much?” to which he replied, “Don’t worry about it”.  “Are you sure?” I asked.  “Yep..have a good night”. 

Neither of these were a big deal and you could make the argument that in both cases, they were just practicing ‘good business’ and you’d be right.  However, the bigger point is that they didn’t have to do it.  The bus driver could have said that I wouldn’t be allowed to ride and she’d have been will within her rights.  Fred at the repair shop could have (and should have) charged me.

In both cases, they acted in kindness when they otherwise wouldn’t have had to.  These interactions with relative strangers have prompted me to not only looks for grace that abounds but also to make sure that I extend that same grace to others. 

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, Praise the Lord for his grace that abounds – and extend it to others – always.  Have a grace-full Thanksgiving brothers and sisters. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spiritual Journeys

One of the things I wrestled with when I was discerning whether or not I should got to seminary was with my own spirituality.  I have never considered myself an overly ‘spiritual’ person – whatever that means (see previous post).  I guess I thought I just wasn’t close enough to God to be able lead others spiritually.  I thought I needed to have some sort ‘super-relationship’ with Jesus in order to be a pastor.

What I’ve been learning in seminary this semester is that I do, in fact, need to work more on my relationship with Jesus – and rather than being ashamed of that fact, I’m learning to be OK with it.

For the first time in my life, I’m learning what the phrase “Spiritual Journey” is all about.  I’m learning that I don’t need to have a higher/deeper/stronger relationship with Jesus than anyone else.  However, like everyone else, I need to have a very clear recognition that I need to be constantly striving toward a better relationship with him.  It is a journey, a process – a process of sanctification.

I’m learning that I don’t need to have all the answers, I just need to have the desire to come along side people and learn with them, discern with them, grieve with them, and grow with them.  In doing these things, I’ll be showing the love of Jesus to them – and that’s what discipleship is all about.  Yes, I do need to be able to provide answers and wisdom.  But it will always be answers and wisdom that come from the Holy Spirit, not from me.  I’m just his agent.

I can’t (and won’t) pretend that I’ve got some sort of magic bullet of spirituality that can make everything better.  What I can do, is understand and appreciate the fact that I am on a spiritual journey too…just like the people that I minister to. 

We’re all on a spiritual journey and we’re all in different places on that journey.  Because that’s true, we all have things to learn, but we also all have things to teach.  We all have a part in the redemption story…be proud of your role and take pride in the roles of those around you.   Someday when I’m a pastor I hope be both a teacher and a learner.

I’m not a spiritual superstar…but on my spiritual journey I’m learning more and more each day about the One who is.  

Monday, November 8, 2010

A good weekend

It was a good weekend for the Ten Hakens. I had a really busy week at school with writing a few papers, work, and studying so when I got home at 5:00 on Friday afternoon I was ready to kick back.

Friday night was family night – Jessica made homemade pizza (a family favorite) and we all watched “Toy Story 3”.  I might have closed my eyes here and there but the kids really enjoyed it and we had a great evening together at home. 

On Saturday Jessica and I had the opportunity to go on a real live date – something we hadn’t done since March.  We sold our house in Sioux Center in April and since then our lives have been a complete whirlwind.  I would dare say that it’s only recently that we gotten into a regular routine and we were very excited about our night out. 

Anyway, back in September Jessica bought a ‘GroupOn’ for River City Improv.  They are a group of Calvin College grads that do improv comedy shows in Grand Rapids on Saturday nights.  So, Mark and Kelli offered to take the kids (overnight even!) and we had an evening to ourselves.  Jessica commented that this was the first night that she’s been away from Alex…21 months!

So we dropped the kids off and spent a few hours just walking around some of the unique shops along Wealthy Street and then went to Mangiamo for dinner.   Mangiamo is an Italian restaurant that is in  a refurbished mansion close to downtown.  We shared a wonderful meal in a great atmosphere and then laughed ourselves silly with the River City Improv group.  They’re hilarious!

Sunday morning we went to Holland to get the kids and went to church with Mark and Kelli and all the kids and had lunch at their house and spent a good portion of the afternoon hanging out with them.  It was fun!

After church at night, we all played a new card game called “Quiddler” that Mark and Kelli gave us.

So it was a great weekend – time as a  family, time as a couple,  time with siblings, niece, and nephew, and time in worship to our great God that makes it all possible.