Friday, December 30, 2011


We are back safe and sound from a great week spending time with family and friends in Iowa and Minnesota.  We made a last minute decision to travel through the night after a few family members started getting ill.

Driving through the night allowed to me to reflect on how blessed we are to have such a wonderful support system of family and friends.  This journey of ours to the ministry has been full of God’s goodness and grace and one of the greatest evidences of that is the enduring support of family and friends.  Not only did spending time with them again remind us of that, but also all the Christmas cards and words of encouragement that we’ve received during the holiday season.  As we tell people so often, we feel truly blessed.

Speaking of being blessed, I’ve been blessed with an unique travel opportunity that I don’t think I’ve mentioned on this blog before, although many of you may already know about it.  On January 4th, I’m departing from Chicago to travel to Istanbul, Turkey where I will begin a two-week biblical study tour of Turkey and Greece. 

I’m going as part of a New Testament course along with about twenty other students from the seminary.  Our guide will be Dr. Jeff Weima who teaches New Testament courses.  We will be visiting the sites of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, following the routes of some of Paul’s missionary journeys, and seeing other important sites of the ancient world.

I’m very excited about this trip and I’m confident that it will enhance my ministry later on as well as increase my knowledge of and appreciation for the historical contexts in which the Bible was originally inspired. 

I am not very excited about leaving behind my wife and children for two weeks.  I very grateful to Jessica for her support in allowing me to participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity.  Even while it will be any exciting two weeks for me, it will undoubtedly be an exhausting two weeks for her.   Her mother is planning to come and stay at our house for at least part of the time, and the wives of some of my travel companions are already planning some get-togethers while were gone!  Indeed, blessings continue to abound in our lives.

So please remember me and my family in your prayers the next few weeks.  Pray for safety in travel for our trip, patience and strength for Jessica and that the kids will behave well. 

I can’t wait to share everything I’ve learned with you all after I get back!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Little Trepidation

Exams are finished.  As of today, my seminary education is half-way completed.  I meet that reality with equal amounts of excitement and trepidation.  On the one hand, though I like learning and am enjoying my studies, I most certainly not a person who’s cut out for years of studying in an academic setting.  I’m excited to ‘get to work’ again.  On the other hand, I’m acutely aware of how much I yet need to learn.  I’m already anticipating the mistakes I’ll make in ministry as a result of either not knowing enough or being more sure of myself than I ought to be. 

As I think about it though, I wonder if that isn’t a good model with which to approach life in general – with fairly liberal doses of both excitement and trepidation.  Excitement about new challenges and experiences.  Excitement about all the good things that life brings – laughs and birthdays and backyard barbeques.  And yes, even excitement about successes that I’ll have – times where either I or my kids will say or do the right thing. 

But the trepidation is always lurking in the background.  Trepidation about all of the firsts that new a new experience brings.  The times when I’ll say or do just the wrong thing.  You know, all of those things in life that keep us humble.

And that’s exactly why trepidation can be a good thing.  It’s forces to me stay humble.  To not get too full of myself when things go well.  As strange it at may sound having a feeling of insecurity now and again is just what I need to make sure I am secure – not in myself, but in Jesus.  For me, knowing that I won’t always get it right takes the pressure off.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very concerned about doing it right and doing my best, but I’m also fully aware that sometimes (maybe even most times) I won’t get it right.  Being overly humble rather than overly confident about my abilities will help me be able at admit my mistakes rather than defend them.

As soon as I don’t have enough trepidation in my life, is when I think I ought to start being worried.  But I face those trepidations with the confidence that I don’t face them alone.  God is right there with me, in the excitement and the trepidation of life.  My confidence lies in his ability not my own.  So, bring on the trepidation and enjoy the excitement.  Life offers plenty of both.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Semester Ending…

Early this year on this blog, I mentioned (probably more than once) that this semester was going to be a busy one.  Well, I’m here tell you that my ability to predict the future remains fully intact.  This semester has been a full one.  As a result, the blog has taken a back seat.

This afternoon, I find myself with a few moments to provide a quick update.  Jessica is out doing some holiday shopping with the older two kids and Alex is napping…check that, Alex WAS napping…we’ll see how far I get here.

This coming Monday is last day of classes for the semester already.  I’m finished with all of my papers, sermons, and assignments and, for the most part, I’ve done well on them.  However, there’s a few I don’t have back yet, so the jury is still out on those.  Tuesday is a review day and then exams begin on Wednesday.  I’ve got one on Wednesday; two on Thursday; one on Friday.  So this next week will consist of much studying.

The semester has been a thought-provoking one.  I’ve learned a lot about how to better read and understand the Old Testament in my Old Testament Narratives class.  I’ve gained valuable insights into how to think about and do worship in my Forming Worshipping Communities class.  I’ve been challenged to wrestle with and get greater clarification about doctrine in my Systematic Theology class.  I took an elective on the book of Job this semester which was very challenging.  The book of Job raises a lot of difficult questions and forced me to think about a lot of issues concerning reality of evil and the goodness of Job and the struggles with the consequences of sin.  In my New Testament Narratives classes we’ve talked about the relationship between the Gospels and the variety of interpretations that people give to the life and work of Jesus.  To say the least, I’m going to have to remember a lot of information for my exams next week.

I’ve also been meeting regularly with my vocational mentor which I’ve been enjoying.  It’s been very helpful for me to ask him about things we talk about in class and reflect practically.  It’s one thing to talk about things in the context of a classroom it’s wholly different to put them into practice in the context of pastoral ministry.  Questions about worship, theology, doctrine, the Bible and a host of other things.  So I’ve been very appreciative of what I’m learning both inside and outside the classroom.

In addition to school responsibilities, Christmas is also in full-swing here.  We’ve set up the tree and all the decorations and we’ve done a little shopping. However, Alex’s curiosity has prevented us from placing the present under the tree.  I’ve also scooped the sidewalk and put plastic on the windows. Yep, winter has arrived!  

Last night, Jessica and Bethany and I went to a production of The Nutcracker performed by the Grand Rapids Ballet Company.  I'm not what one would call a connoisseur of the ballet, but I thought it was very well done.  But the best part was that Jessica and Bethany thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  Zachary is getting older so we decided that he could be left in charge of Alex.  He did a superb job.