Monday, January 24, 2011

FORUM Article

My last post was about how great hearing the calling stories of my classmates was at last weekend’s retreat.  Some time back, a staff member of Calvin Seminary’s quarterly publication, Forum, asked if I would be willing to share mine for publication in their Winter issue, which I agreed to do. 

That was just released today, so if you’d like to read it, as well as other great stories in the issue, you can do so online here:  or get a hold of your own hard copy at your local CRC church.

Thanks for reading.…

On a related note, I think the February edition of Christianity Today is featuring stories about second career seminarians.  I was interviewed by one of their writers for that article back in October so stay tuned for that as well.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


This past week, from Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to go to Camp Geneva on the shores of Lake Michigan for a “Pastoral Identity Retreat” with my fellow first year M.Div. students.

It was different being on the shores of Lake Michigan in January as opposed to July, but it was no less impressive.  The ice piled up on the shore making jagged cliffs that were both beautiful and dangerous.  The blue-gray water that rolled up against these jagged winter shorelines was dark and uninviting. 

Back within the warm walls of the Conference Center I had the pleasure of getting to know some of my fellow classmates better as we shared our calling stories, talked about our gifts for ministry (and the lack thereof) and uttered some of our fears about and motivations for becoming pastors and teachers.

The experience was both humbling and affirming for me.  I heard some amazing stories of God’s work in the lives of my classmates – stories of great sacrifice and genuine wrestling with God.   There was a young lady who is following God’s call on her life despite rejection and anger from her family; a young man who was re-captured by God on a hilltop outside of Guatanamo Bay Cuba while guarding the Muslim detainees there; and a man who re-dedicated his life to God after after surviving a severe car accident more than twenty years ago. 

For me, the opportunity to share my story about how God has led my family and me to this point was just further affirmation that we are, in fact, right where God wants us.   As I shared with some of my peers,I gained an even deeper sense that the upbringing, schooling, careers, opportunities, and experiences that I’ve had have up to this point have prepared me well for this adventure.  I have and will continue to draw on my past experience as I learn about and enter into a career in ministry.

That being said, I’ve also learned how much I still need to learn.  There is much wisdom among my classmates and I appreciated the opportunity to learn from those both older and younger than me.  Their stories and backgrounds are diverse and encouraging and I’m happy for the opportunity to learn from them and about them this weekend.  I was challenged by their points of view and their insights and I’m thankful to them for sharing them.  It will be a good three years.

And no, I did not participate in the ‘polar bear plunge’…

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Friendship Ministries

One of the requirements that Calvin Seminary has for all of its M.Div students is that they complete 100 hours of unpaid ‘service learning’.  They define this (rather narrowly in my opinion) as engaging in acts of  “justice and mercy”.  This means that we need to volunteer with a group or organization that is ministering to the cause of the poor, needy, or marginalized.  Things like volunteering at a soup kitchen, food bank, or for an after school program, mentoring an inner city kid, or any number of other options. 

At first, I resisted this requirement – so much so that I met with the VP for Academic Affairs to plead my case that given the fact that I’ve been a good amount of time since college volunteering in a variety of ways in community, church, and school that I should be able to earn some ‘life experience credit’ and be exempted from this requirement.

My reasons were valid, to me at least.  I understand why the requirement is there.  Many people don’t very readily see the importance of volunteering and giving back to their communities.  We use the excuses of being too busy, of not knowing what to do, or by rationalizing the fact that we already do our part and don’t see a need to do more – after all, “Why can’t so-and-so do it?”   However, I had the opportunity to be involved in a number of volunteer opportunities after college and really appreciated the opportunity to serve in that capacity.  Therefore, as I argued with the VP, I didn’t need this to be legislated to me and, in fact, I was all for it.  But not here and not now.   My time here is short and the seminary workload is demanding – I felt that I deserved (and earned) a respite ( are you sensing a theme here?).  The powers that be disagreed and I began seeking out opportunities.

So, if I was going to do this, I wanted to do something that would be meaningful to me and that I would enjoy.  In high school and college I worked in group home for mentally and physically challenged children and really liked it.  It was hard work, but good work.  Through that and through the CRC in Worthington I got the opportunity to participate in a Friendship Bible Ministry there and really liked that well.

Friendship Ministries is a non-profit organization that creates and helps facilitate Bible studies for mentally and physically challenged young people and adults.  They are not affiliated with the CRC directly, but they do share a very strong, symbiotic relationship.  Anyway, their corporate offices are here in Grand Rapids so I inquired about an opportunity to serve.

As the Lord would have it there was an group that met every Tuesday at church just a few blocks from our house on Tuesday nights.  In addition, she had a perfect opportunity for me – Marcus needed a partner. 

Marcus is a 19 year-old young man with autism.  He doesn’t speak but he knows some sign language and he loves coming Friendship.  I’ve been able to meet with him twice so far and he’s been a joy to get to know. I’m looking forward to getting to know him better.

Something that I thought would be a hassle has turned out to be a wonderful blessing.  That’s what’s so amazing about God’s grace – you find it when you most need and when you least expect it.   I’m already looking forward to Tuesday.

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Semester Grades

So many people have asked how it’s been going – Has been hard to do school again? How are your classes?   There have been so many that have been praying for us and wondering how I’ve been doing.

I found getting back into school challenging, but in a good way.  It took me a while to assume the role of student again, but for the most part the transition has gone well.  I’ve been telling people that I’ve been doing well and have been enjoying my coursework.  But, as the saying goes, ‘the proof is in the pudding’. 

So since so many of you who read this have been supporting us in prayer and other ways, I thought I’d share my first semester grades with you all.   So here it goes:

Hebrew Fundamentals –  A-

Church History I – A-

Formation for Ministry – A

Bible Survey – A

I’m very happy with these grades and we are praising God for his grace and goodness to us.  For us, this is further confirmation that the Lord provides and gives us what we need to meet the challenges of serving him. 

Thanks to all of you for your love, support, and prayers.  We are blessed.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


J-Term started this week.  This is a three week interim set of courses in between semesters.  I've got three of them: 

Pastoral Identity – which carries over into 2nd semester.  We look at who are as persons in order to make some determinations about what are strengths and weaknesses might be particularly in the area of pastoral care.

Intro to Logos 4 – Logos 4 is the software program that all CTS students are required to purchase.  It’s a powerful program that has hundreds of resources that combine different biblical translations, commentaries and handbooks, original language guides and all kinds of other helps to aid sermon preparation and exegesis.  I’ve been using it just a little first semester and am looking forward to being able to put it to better use. 

Greek Review – The last time I seriously picked up Greek was at Dordt approximately twelve years ago.  Since I did take it there, I don’t have to take it for credit at Calvin.  However, I did want to brush up and reacquaint myself with the language.  This is not only good for me, it’s also necessary in order to do better in my New Testament exegetical courses next year.  I’m surprised by how much is coming back to me and scared about how much I don’t know… =)

Logos and Greek meet for just over two hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the next three weeks.  The pastoral identity class is a three-hour night class on Wednesday nights.  So I’ve got Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to do homework, help around the house, and do some work in the admissions office.

School started for the older two kids on Monday.  They were excited to back at school and see their friends again…which made us glad.  It’s only three days into the semester and Jessica has already subbed for half a day today and all day tomorrow.  Lately, she has been requested by specific teachers, because she’s doing such a great job. 

Back to school for everybody….