Monday, February 28, 2011

Sermon #1

No classes for me this week.  This our quarterly reading break so there are no classes.  However, there is still plenty of work to be done.  Really, this should be writing week for me.

Just today, I finished my first sermon and ‘delivered’ it to a congregation of one -- Jessica.  She thought it was good, which I was thankful for.  As she said herself, “I'd tell you if it wasn’t good.” 

I must say that sermon preparation and writing is that part of this entire process that freaked me out the most – and after completing my first one, it still does.  But for reasons different than I had anticipated.

I had thought that the hardest part would be the research part…the exegesis, the textual analysis, interpreting the themes, etc.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there will be times where that will be challenging.  For this first go around, we’ve got some ‘softballs’ for texts.  My first one is from Matthew 9:1-8 – Jesus Healing of the Paralytic.  So I accomplished that without too much difficulty.

That’s all well and fine, but I still didn’t have twenty minutes worth of material.  Enter freak out #2.    Well, it turns out that when you start looking for stories to accompany what the text is telling you there is a lot there too.  

All that being said, I’ve have a lot of time to think about this sermon so I had been milling potential things around in my mind for a while.  So under normal circumstances this may be a different story.

Even so,  I was pleased to learn that those things I thought would be really hard and really made me nervous where not that nerve-racking.

For me, the biggest challenge is wrapping my mind around the fact that this nine page document, by some miracle of the Holy Spirit, becomes a word from God.  How does that happen? And who am I to deliver it?  This is the part, that now, freaks me out the most.

I would imagine that over time, these feelings of fear, trepidation, and awe will ebb and flow.  Sometimes, stories will be hard to come by and other times the exegesis will prove to be challenging.  But through all of that, I hope I never loose that sense of humility and awe that it is, ultimately, a word from the Lord.  And it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that it becomes so.  

I suppose that it’s that  fact that, in the end, should give me a sense of peace that it’s not about me or the stories I tell.  Ultimately, it’s a word about God, that comes from God.  The fact that it  comes (someday at least) through me is both amazing and humbling.  And I’m looking forward to doing it more.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ballet & Opera

In my last post I mentioned that I was planning to do something special with each of the older two kids.  Last Saturday it was monster trucks with Zachary and this Saturday it was the ballet with Bethany. 

The Grand Rapids Ballet Company performed a ballet for kids which was all based on fairy tales.  It was short (40 minutes or so) and it was all about fairy princesses and prince charmings.  It was a great introduction to ballet – for her and for me. 

For this particular event the ballet also teamed up with the Grand Valley State University and also presented an opera called, “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Do His Homework.”  This was also about 45 minutes and was a great introduction to the world of opera.

In both performances that costumes and props were amazing and the singing and dancing was very professional – at least to my very untrained eye.

It was fun, however, what was much more fun was how excited Bethany was for the evening.  We both got dressed up…Jessica did her hair and she wore a dress (which she picked out the day before already!)  I put on a shirt and tie and even wore a suit jacket.  She came downstairs after getting ready like we were going to the prom…it was fantastic! It’s a memory I hope we’ll both hang on to for a long time (the picture is below).


After the ballet we had supper together at TGI Friday’s and we sat next to a table young ladies that was having a bachelorette party.  The bride to be was wearing a fake veil and a T-shirt that said something about getting hitched. 

They were having a great time and I couldn’t help but wonder how I’ll feel when Bethany is the one sitting at TGI Friday’s with her friends in a fake veil shortly before her wedding. 

The truth is, I don’t know how I’ll feel, but I know how I hope I’ll feel—at peace.  I hope that she’ll marry for the right reasons and in the right way.  I hope that’ll she’ll marry someone who loves Jesus and they’ll have a marriage that is rooted in God.  I also hope that I’ll be able to officiate the ceremony. All of that hoping made me realize even more how much we need to depend on the Lord for all things. 

There are so many things that I can’t control, but there is one thing  I can control, and that is how much I can pray for my kids and their futures.  I know that, for right now at least, I doing the best I can to raise them right.  But I also know that it doesn’t depend on me…my plan for them is hopeful, but God’s plan for them is sure.  I take great comfort in that truth.

In the meantime, I’ll keep praying for them, and for me—to raise them the best way I know how.  And just maybe, by God’s grace, I’ll get a few more things right than wrong by the time they walk down the aisle and start families of their own. 



Sunday, February 13, 2011

Monster Trucks

Of the things about living in a bigger city is that there is more opportunity to take in events and activities without having to travel so far.  Grand Rapids offers many such events and Jessica and I decided that we should try and take advantage of some of them while we’re here.  So a few weeks back, I told the older two kids that I’d like to do something special with each of them – one thing with Zachary and one thing with Bethany.

Shortly after I made that announcement an television advertisement came on for Monster Jam 2011 which was coming to Van Andel Arena.  Zachary made it quite clear that this is what he’d like to do with me….what’s better than a father-son outing to a monster truck show?  Complete with free entry to the pit party to see the trucks up close!

So yesterday we made our way downtown and watched seven monster trucks fly over cars and lay down rubber.  It was loud!  We both bought a set of ear plugs. 

Zachary had a blast and couldn’t stop talking about it.  It was fun.  There are a lot of people that are crazy about monster trucks that’s for sure.  Hats, T-shirts, banners, mugs, you name it, people were buying it. 

It was great to doing something with just him and me.  I’m looking forward to doing something with Bethany next weekend…shhh, it’s a surprise.

Here are a few pictures from the big event:


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Getting a haircut–God’s way

I have a love-hate relationship with my hair.  I love my hair but I hate getting it cut.  So I usually let it get too long before I finally decide that it’s time.  In addition, I’m also very distrusting of barbers or whatever you want to call them.  I’ve had my share of bad haircuts in my life and so it is with much fear and trepidation that I search to find a new one.  Since moving to Grand Rapids in July I’ve gotten my haircut exactly three times and two of those times I was less than pleased with the results.

A couple Saturdays ago we had my mentoring group over to our house for a meal and I got to talking with our fearless leader, Dave.  He asked where we were going to church and when I mentioned Seymour he said that the guy who cuts his hair, Scott, has been visiting there with his family for the last several months.  I was due for another trim so I listened with interest.  Dave said they were hoping to meet some new people in the church and he said I should be on the lookout for him. I assured him that I would.

Enter God – the following Sunday we were in church and we arrived late so we sat further toward the back than we normally would have.  During the ‘mutual greeting’ time at the beginning a gentlemen sitting behind us came over and introduced himself to Jessica and I as ‘Scott’.  I asked him if happened to cut hair and he indicated with surprise that he did.  So after church I found him again and we chatted briefly, I told him that Dave was one of my mentors, and told him I’d be in for a trim.  So yesterday, I made good on my word and went and got my haircut at Scott’s Barber and Beauty on the corner of 44th and Division.

It’s amazing how you can see God’s hand even in the pews we choose to sit in on Sunday mornings. Had we not sat there that morning, I might still not have met Scott and, consequently, my hair would have gotten obnoxiously long.  I wonder how many people would have the opportunity to meet someone new right in their own church if they would just sit in a different seat. 

It’s remarkable what we can find when we step out of our comfort zones. Jesus left his seat, his ‘comfort zone’, at the right of hand of the Father to provide salvation for all. How much more shouldn’t we be willing to find a new place and a new way to reach out to others.  Christ is our ultimate example of what being a disciple is all about.  It’s about trusting God and living the words, ‘not my will, but yours be done’.  No matter what the cost.

Blessings certainly await those who step out in faith in big ways and in small ones.  So step out in faith and find a new seat.  You never know who might end up sitting behind you.

Oh, and the haircut was a great one – even Jessica approved.  I’ve found my new barber here in Grand Rapids. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Second Semester (and a blizzard) is Underway

So second semester started yesterday and it’s going to be a good one.  Here’s the lowdown, if you’re interested:

Hebrew Usage and Tools & Christian Engagement with World Religions on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings;  Forming Communities of Disciples & Church History II on Tuesday and Thursday mornings; and Practice and Theory of Preaching on Monday afternoons.

So I’ve got five classes this semester instead of four like last semester so it’ll be a little busier.   I’m looking forward to these classes – they should provide lots of fodder for blogging! =)

In fact, I’ve already been assigned my first sermon text – Matt.9:1-8 – Jesus’ Healing of A Paralytic.  So I might try a few ideas out on you, my faithful readers, at some point in time.

On a lighter note, apparently February 2, 2011 will go down in history as one of the extremely rare times throughout the 125+ year of Calvin Seminary history that school will be cancelled due to weather.  Yep…I’ve got a snow day.  Almost as exciting as when I was a kid, except for the fact that the work that I will have make up is significantly greater. 

Nevertheless, we’ve all got a snow day tomorrow…I plan to use it wisely.