Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cutting Edge Spirituality

I met with my vocational mentor today, who is also my pastor, and he asked me an interesting question, “What is the cutting edge in your growth in terms of your relationship with Jesus?”

I had never thought of it like that before – can my relationship with Jesus be ‘cutting edge’?  Usually, we reserve the phrase ‘cutting edge’ for things like the latest technological device or scientific research.  I’ve never thought about a relationship being cutting edge – especially a relationship with Jesus.  But, I think it’s helpful to think of it that way.

What he was trying to get at is where  I saw myself developing, seeing growth.  How was I being stretched by God and how was I stretching myself in developing my relationship with him.  Just like scientists or engineers are stretching themselves in their work to learn more, know more, discover more – I, and perhaps all Christians, should be stretching themselves more.  We should all be more on the ‘cutting edge’ of understanding what God is up to in our lives.

As a person studying to be a preacher of God’s word I have a unique responsibility and opportunity to be aware of where the cutting edge of spirituality is not only in my own life, but also in the lives of those whom I serve.  That means I need to aware of what God is up to all around me all the time and help make others aware of God’s work around them as well. 

In some cases, that may mean pushing people closer to the edge and challenge them to stretch themselves.  And in others, it may mean learning from those I serve and having them help me be more cutting edge in my own understanding.  In either case, as a professional pastor, just like a professional scientist or engineer (or any professional for that matter), I need to be on the ‘cutting edge’ of my craft – challenging myself to see God more and challenging those I come in contact with to see God more. 

Doing so will require much study, prayer, humility, and openness to what is happening around me.  I’m looking forward to the responsibility and the joy of being on the cutting edge of God’s work in our world.  What is the ‘cutting edge’ of God work your life right now?  Think about it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lesson Learned

A little extra excitement this week at the Ten Hakens.  On Monday night we were planning to go out for dinner with some friends and I was on the way home in the van with the babysitter.  We were just a few houses down from our house when I heard a loud crash.  I stopped the van and looked behind me and the passenger side rear door window was completely gone.  There was glass everywhere except where it belonged!

I looked through the hole in the van where the window used to be and saw a teenage boy standing on the lawn with his hands on his head staring at us in disbelief.   After making sure our babysitter was OK (which she was) I got out of the van and asked this young man what happened.  He threw a rock and it happened to find the window of my van.

I took down his info since his mom wasn’t home and told him I’d be in touch.  I called my insurance agent (who is also my brother, Mark!) and he told me to talk to the kid’s mom and get an estimate.

Later that night, I went over and talked to his mom and both she and her son were very good about the whole thing.  They were very clear that they would pay for any of the damages which was great.  I didn’t have to ‘fight’ with anyone and could avoid having to go through insurance.

So yesterday the young man came over and helped me clean up all the glass and today I had a new window installed by an auto glass company.  He’s going to pay me on a weekly basis until it’s paid for and everybody wins.  I only had to drive around Grand Rapids with plastic on the side of my van for two days.  And for those of you who know how particular I am about my vehicle – that was a two days too long! =)

Well, it’s all better now…and I think there were two lessons learned.  I hope the young man who threw the rock will learn that actions have consequences and many times those consequences are unintended.  I learned a lesson too…most of the time, people want to do the right thing and will do so if you give them the chance.   I kept my cool and didn’t get mad and in return these folks have been great about wanting to make things right.

I’m sure there’s a sermon illustration somewhere in all of this…but I’ll get back to you on that.  For now, it’s just a good story that could have turned out much worse than it did. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Well, the three of us (Zachary, Bethany, and Michael) are officially all done with school!  It was a good year for all three of us.  We’ve all got our report cards and the kids and I are very happy with the results.  The Lord has blessed us!

So now, the fun can begin.  Jessica’s parents came for a visit for a few days.  They were here Friday – Tuesday and they brought with them our nephew, Marshall and niece, Michaela.  Marshall is the same age as Zachary and Michaela is the same age as Bethany and when they get together they are best of friends.  It was fun to have them around and we had a good time.  Jessica’s parents got the opportunity to hear me preach on Sunday night and we had a bonfire, went to the beach, did crafts and went out for dinner. 

On Monday Jessica and I took a trip to Detroit for her naturalization interview with the US Department of Immigration and Naturalization.  She passed her interview with flying colors and is now one step closer to being a bona fide citizen of the US of A. 

However, we got nervous when we arrived at the interview and Jessica realized that she didn’t have her Green Card with her which is probably the single most important thing to have in that interview.  But even though the Immigration Officer that interviewed her made it very clear he was not happy about that oversight he did conduct the interview regardless and approved her for naturalization.  So now we are awaiting final approval and notification of her swearing in ceremony.    I was hoping it would be all done by the 4th of July but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

On Friday my parents are coming for a long weekend.  My dad will be here for Father’s Day which will be great.  There have been so many times throughout this process of transitioning where we have been thankful for the love and support of family.  We continue to be very appreciative of their support and love it when they come to visit.

If any of you will be in the greater Grand Rapids area this summer we’d love to hear from you and see if we can arrange a get-together.  Have a great summer everyone!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


So I finished my first week at Degage and have lots of stories to tell already.  Many of the patrons that come through the doors there are more than just ‘down on their luck’.  Several of them were all to ready to admit that alcohol abuse has  been a major contributing factor in getting them to where they are today.  It caused them to loose jobs, be shunned by family, and loose homes and self-sufficiency. 

However, many of them are now sober and have been for several years, but the stigma that comes along with not having a job for months or even years makes it tough for them to get one – especially in this economy when employers that are hiring have their pick of applicants. 

Several of these men (they’re almost all men) that I’ve talked with don’t make excuses for their situation.  They understand that poor choices and dependence on the wrong things got them where they are today.  And even though they are no longer dependent on alcohol (you aren’t allowed in if you’ve been drinking) they are still dependent – dependent on someone who’s willing to take a chance on them. 

Dependence is a funny thing. On the one hand, we are all dependent on other people from time to time and that’s good.  None of us is totally self-sufficient all the time.    But like so many things in life too much of a good thing turns into a bad thing. 

The patrons at Degage are now dependent on someone else for just about everything.  The other day, I worked on the ‘second floor’ where we offer hot showers and about 70 or so gym lockers that are available for rent ($2/week) for them to store their stuff in since many don’t have places of their own.  All of these lockers can only be accessed with a key that staff have access to.  So every time someone needs to get at their stuff (clothes, toiletries, books, etc.) they have to ask permission to have their locker opened.

I processed this for awhile wondering what it would be like to be in a situation where every single day I had to ask a relative stranger for access to MY stuff – essentially asking permission to get dressed.  It really bothered me.  What does having to live like this do to a persons psyche?  How does it make them feel? 

Now, don’t hear my wrong,  as I said before many of these men are living in the shadow of their own bad choices and they readily admit that.  So, it’s not necessarily that I feel sorry for them (although, in some cases their circumstances are beyond their control), I just wonder what it would be like.  If it was me, I would be frustrated and perhaps even angry from time to time.

I look at it like this:  I give grace only because I’ve received it.  So, if someone’s life situation is such that they need to ask my permission to access the whole of their worldly possessions out of a gym locker on the second floor of a downtown ministry center because it’s the only option they’ve got, I’m going to do just that.  And I’ll do it with a smile and brief word of encouragement because I know that God, through the death and resurrection of his son, Jesus, unlocked the the gift of eternal life and threw open the gates of heaven for all his chosen ones.  And the best part is that I didn’t even have to ask permission – he, by his grace, took care of that too.  Pretty amazing stuff.

So this summer, I’ll open locker doors and all kinds of other things for those that need it.  Hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to open the Scriptures with some of them too.  The really important stuff is in there, not behind a gym locker door.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summer Internship

I started my summer internship yesterday at Degage Ministries in downtown Grand Rapids (   Degage is a French word that means to relax and be at ease.  Theirs is a different kind of ministry – it isn’t a soup kitchen because you have to pay to eat there; it isn’t a gospel because you don’t have to hear a gospel message in order to use their services; it isn’t a shelter though it does have a place for women to spend the night.  So it’s a very unique downtown ministry that seeks to meet the needs of the poor but not in the usual way. 

During the course of the summer, I’ll be sharing stories about the people I meet there and things that I do there.  So far, I’ve spent one day in the dining room selling coffee and one day helping upstairs working with their ID card program.   I’ll say more about each of those later.

So far, the most challenging part has been figuring out my new bus schedule!  But it’s great, because I can get on just a few blocks from home like before, and get dropped off and picked up right in front of Degage without having to transfer so it works out great.  So I catch the 6:30AM bus downtown and catch the 12:00PM bus back home at noon.

I’m just there in the mornings so my afternoons will be spent doing some work for the Admissions Office at the seminary, writing sermons, and doing some summer reading and writing for the coursework that accompanies this internship.  Hopefully, I’ll have the chance to take a kids swimming or something once in a while too.  It should be a good summer.