Sunday, September 25, 2011

Life at its Fullest

Everyone and everything is in full fall swing at the Ten Haken’s.  The kids and I have been in school for a few weeks now and the busyness of the semester is setting in.  All of the activities at church such as GEMS, Cadets, and Choir, and Bible study have started;  SoulCare started for Jessica and Alex; and school activities such as music lessons, theatre group for Bethany and class trips to ArtPrize (a national art competition held in Grand Rapids -- are also underway.  So after school is filled with music practice, homework, appointments, dinner, baths, reading, and the like.

My prior inclinations that this would be one of my busiest semesters of seminary have proven to be true.  The workload is increased as has the difficulty of the coursework.  In addition, I’ve been working a few extra hours in the Admissions Office at the seminary since one of the two full-time employees that make up that office is out on maternity leave.  So, I’m relying heavily on Jessica right now to maintain order at home and she’s been doing the amazing job.  More of my evenings are being taken up with studying leaving less time for me to help with evening routines and I continue to be grateful for her support and patience with me and my schedule.

Later this week, Jessica’s parents are coming for a visit.  It’s GrandFriends Day at school so they will be able to attend that and then we’ll try and take in some ArtPrize installations and maybe some golf.  So I’ll work some long hours this week in order to have some time this weekend to with them. 

Life is full – full of busyness and full of blessing.  Full of challenges and full of rewards.  Full of love and laughter amidst the chaos of full schedules.  Please pray that we all stay healthy – getting sick is not on the ‘to do’ list! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


This past Sunday afternoon I was relaxing on the couch when the phone rang.  It was the neighbor girl and she wanted to know if we could come to the graveyard with her and her family.  Strange request, but sure!

Time for some background…our neighbors, the Yondo’s, and especially the mom, Angela, have a unique relationship (if that’s the right word) with a local cemetery called St. Andrew’s.  Due to many years of neglect, vandalism, poor record keeping, and a fire that destroyed many of the records, the cemetery had fallen into a state of disrepair.  Many of the headstones are from late 1800’s and early 1900’s. 

Angela, and consequently her family, have taken on the herculian task of restoring it.  This requires not only the physical restoration of landscaping, tree-trimming and the like, it also requires finding and recording information on the headstones and then doing the research of who these people were.  It is her labor of love.

On this particular warm and sunny afternoon the older two kids and I went out there and helped haul brush and set-up headstones that have either broken or been vandalized.  We also spent some time looking for headstones that,  after being broken and laying on the ground for many years, have become buried.  She accomplishes this using a metal pole that she thrusts into the ground like a probe hoping to ‘hit’ one.   She had recently discovered a set of four – all family members that we buried together.

After a few hours of helping and learning we were about ready to leave when Zachary grabbed the probe and unwittingly stuck it in the ground and ‘hit’ one.  We began digging and wondering – “Who is it?” 

It was a strange feeling to be looking for a someTHING and at the same time knowing it was the last remaining memory of a someONE.   We finally got it out of the ground….

The son of

C.W. Johnson

Aug. 11, 1906

Nov. 14, 1906

My exhilaration of the find was quickly replaced with wonder and sadness.   Who was this?  How did he die?  Why so young?  Would anyone alive today remember his family?    Answering that question in the affirmative seemed unlikely.  Angela had no record of any Johnsons being buried here. It seemed liked his memory was lost forever.

It got me thinking about the importance of remembering and the fact that we partake in Holy Communion, the Eucharist, as an act of remembering.  We remember so that we don’t forget. 

That may seem obvious, but imagine what it would be like if the church hadn’t been remembering these past 2,000 years.  Think about that – what if the church neglected its responsibility to remember by not participating in the Lord’s Supper? 

We partake to remember.  We remember who he is, what he did and why he did it.  And in so doing, we remember a tomb too.  A tomb that is empty.  A tomb that is not forgotten. A tomb that, for the sake of us all, cannot be forgotten.   That’s the power, the importance, the rememberance of the Lord’s Supper. 

By remembering Jesus in the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, we share in his death and resurrection.  He is not the forgotten son of C.W. Johnson.  He is the remembered Son of God, and the Savior of us all. 

Take, Eat, Remember, and Believe….so that we do not forget.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


This past week has been a strange one for me. The kids started school, but I didn’t. I start on Tuesday. But this year none of us are facing the anxiety and stress that we faced last school year of being in a new place, trying to get familiar with our new surroundings, trying to find a church home, and wondering if this whole ‘school for Michael’ thing was, in fact, a good idea.

So this week has been calm and quiet – except for one thing – my phone and internet connections. Due a dramatic increase in the cost over the course of this past year, I decided to switch phone and internet providers, going from Comcast to AT&T.

The gentleman that I talked to over the phone was friendly and helpful and assured me that service would be established within a week. Indeed, as promised, a very nice service technician came to the house on a Wednesday morning to establish my phone service. He did so, but there was a problem with the line and while I had a dial-tone, the service was not very clear and he would send someone to repair it. They did.

The following Wednesday, I was informed, someone would come to establish and switch my new DSL service. Indeed, again a nice technician called on Wednesday afternoon and informed me that he was having trouble getting service established. After working on the issue for several hours, he determined that it was out of his control and transferred my issue to the ‘central office’ for further work. He left me his business card and told me to call if there were any problems. This is when the trouble began. In the meantime, my phone service had to be disconnected in order to resolve the issue.

Thursday came and went and no word, so Friday morning I called the repair man and he gave the number of his manager. So I called him and he said he was on his way back to the office and would look into the issue and call me back. Friday afternoon another service technician was at the house and again after several hours of work determined that there was an issue at the central office and she would be entering a repair order with them. Still no service.

So now we're going into the holiday weekend with no phone service (I still have internet through Comcast). On Saturday I got a customer satisfaction survey call on my cell phone and told the guy my story – he couldn’t believe that they just “left me hanging” and put me on hold. While on hold, I had to chase Alex and accidentally hung up on the guy and he never called me back. I’ve tried calling the customer service number three times and after waiting on hold for 10 minutes got frustrated and hung up.

Anyway, all of this got me thinking about reliability. Any of the people I talked to (service techs, managers, customer service people) could have called me back and given me an update or asked me if my issues got resolved, but not one did. That was somebody else’s job. Most of the time, being reliable means doing something that ‘isn’t your job’ – going above and beyond, taking the extra step – you know, the kinds of promises you hear about on TV and read about in business magazines. The types of things that Fortune 500 companies have conferences and training sessions about. I’ve seen none of it in my interactions with AT&T.

So I wondered, how reliable am I? Do others know me as someone who gets the job done and done well? Or am I the guy who’s always shirking the responsibility – passing on the problem to someone else rather than seeing it through to resolution?

The challenge is to know my limitations – to realize that there are some things that I have to pass on, things that I can’t (and shouldn’t) try and fix without help. I must know my limits, without using them as an excuse. I must know where my work stops and someone else’s must begin.

However, that can only happen if I’m confident that I’ve done my work well – and I’m rarely certain of that. It always seems that I can do more, do better, work harder, longer.

So I’m not always the most reliable. I’ve dropped more balls than I dare to count. But I know of one who is -- I celebrate his grace and surround myself with his promises each and every Sunday in worship and then do my best to take them with me into the week that lies ahead. I rely on the limitless one, the one whose work doesn’t have a stopping point. The one who won’t hand off the repair ticket to the next person in line – Jesus IS the repair ticket.

So whether I faced with the challenges of work, school, family, or AT&T, my reliance is on Jesus, who is totally reliable. A good thing to remember as I start this new, busy, and challenging semester.

And who knows, maybe one of these days AT&T will call me back and prove their reliability…but I’m not counting on it.