5. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webAlmighty Father, Beloved Son, Holy Spirit,
We praise you for being willfully present in our lives—present when we are paying attention and present when we are not. We confess our need for holiness—let your example shine through us. We confess the need to be reconciled with those that pain us and those we pain. We confess that we are too often attracted more to culture and less to you. We thank you for the witness of your son, Jesus Christ, and many spiritual gifts showered on us by your Holy Spirit. Grant us strength for the day, grace for those we meet along the way, and peace when peace seems distant.  In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

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ShipOfFools_web_10042015And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matt 6:13 ESV)


By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Albany was a place where I learned to ride in a bright red wagon.
We lived on a hill and I dreamed of riding my wagon down it.
Someone told me it was a bad idea.
Someone dared me to do it.
So I rode down the hill steering with the handle.
Until I got to the corner.
where the wagon turned over and threw me out.
I scraped my knee but good.
I cried and cried.
And Mom put a bandaid on it.

Our house had a bathroom with a big tumb.
I loved to run the water and run my electric speedboat in it.
But my sister would always come running and want to play too.
I hated to share my boat—the batteries would run down and
I would not get new ones til Christmas.
So I told her what fun it was to put soap in your eyes—
She cried and cried.
And Mom came running.

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4. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webFather God,
Thank you for sending your son, Jesus Christ into our lives to draw us closer to you. Save us from our own evil thoughts and feelings. Unstop our ears; open our eyes; and flood our hearts the promptings of your Holy Spirit. Free us from iniquity and cleanse us from our transgressions. Give us a heart for your word and grant us the mind of Christ. Teach us to lean on your law and to share your grace that we might become true disciples: honored to hunger and thirst for your righteousness; honored to be merciful; honored to pursue Godliness in all we do. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and grace available to us through Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

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My Name


You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain,
for the LORD will not hold him guiltless
who takes his name in vain.
(Exod 20:7)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

What is a name? Is it a blessing, a curse, or prophesy?

My first name, Stephen, is a bit of each. The name, Stephen, comes from the Greek word for crown (στέφανος) [1]. The biblical story of Stephen describes him as: “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5). He was one of the first persons chosen to serve as a deacon in the church. He succeeded in his work “doing great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). He also persuasively argued the faith attracting enemies who, unable to debate him, instigated false charges against him (Acts 6:10-11). Guided by the Holy Spirit, Stephen was stoned and martyred [2]. Stephen’s story speaks to me.

Stephen is a family name in my father’s mother’s family. Her name was Gertrude DeKock. When I was born, she insisted that I be named Stephen after her grandfather, Stephanus DeKock, like my dad. Stephanus was born in the Netherlands (Herwijnen) and immigrated to Pella, Iowa with his parents in 1856 at the age of 17. In August 1862, Stephanus volunteered for the Union Army and served in the 22rd Iowa Infantry (DeCook).

Stephanus was not the first Stephen in the DeKock family. The oldest known, Stephen, in the family was Stephanie, the wife of Philip of Naples in twelfth century France. Her son, Rudolf Chatillon, received the title of Count LeCocq from the King of France because he reported early every day for battle—like a rooster (le Cocq). Later (around 1200) he received a grant of land in Gelderland, The Netherlands and the title, Le Cocq, was translated into DeKock (DeCook).

In keeping with the DeKock family tradition, Gertrude used to vacuum my bedroom at seven o’clock in the morning.

The Hiemstra influence was more subtle.

The family originates in Dokkum which is a Frisian city alone the North Sea in the Netherlands. The Frisians have their own distinctive language which, unlike other dialects, shares little in common with German and Dutch. The Frisians kept their independence from surrounding nations until the Dutch revolt against Spain in 1568—a political manifestation of the reformation [3].

The name, Hiemstra, divides into two parts: hiem and stra. A Frisian friend of mine, who I met as a student in Germay, informed me years ago that “hiem” means home while the “stra” indicates a Frisian origin. My grandfather, Frank Henry Hiemstra, spoke Frisian along with Dutch but he never taught his sons. Instead, he insisted on raising them as Americans speaking English. According to my father, the family move away from Pella to Oskaloosa and attendance at Central Reformed Church in Oskaloosa served to separate the family from daily ethnic Dutch influences—a very Frisian idea!

Frank’s identity remained in Christ. Frank left behind no autobiography or list of accomplishments. Instead, he composed a short piece entitled: Grandpa’s Favorite Bible Verses and Quotations (1998) which starts with:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Further on he writes about prayer and concludes that: “the purpose of prayer [is] to glorify the name of God”.

Frank was subtle; he left room in his life for God.


[1] (BDAG 6819). στέφανος means: “a wreath made of foliage or designed to resemble foliage and worn by one of high status or held in high regard, wreath, crown.”

[2] The charge against Stephen was twofold:

“This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” (Acts 6:13-14)

Stephen never disputed the charge and offered no defense. Instead, he accused the Jews of false worship and not keeping the law (Acts 7:48, 53) effectively validating their charges. What drove them crazy, however, was when he reminded them of Jesus’ words during his trial:

“But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matt 26:64)

Jesus was paraphrasing Daniel 7:13. This was clear a claim of divinity. Stephen’s stoning was spontaneous and illegal under Roman law (John 18:31).

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frisians.


Bauer, Walter (BDAG). 2000. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. ed. de Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. <BibleWorks. v .9.>.

BibleWorks. 2015. Norfolk, VA: BibleWorks, LLC. <BibleWorks v.10>.

DeCook, Stephen and JoAnn. 1999. “DeKock, DeCook Ancestry”. July. Also manuscript “The DeKock Group” (both unpublished).


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3. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webFather God,
We thank you for your willingness to break into our little world.
Break our obsession with ourselves, the person that we know so well, but have trouble being truthful to.
Shine your light into the darkness, drive the cloud of despair away. Help us to accept your Gospel,
to engage it, to live it, to share it. To walk across the bridge between ourselves and others; to bridge the gap between us and you.
By the power of your Holy Spirit, make us whole people again. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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Pammel Court, Dog, and Yellow Wax Beans

What are you doing here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:13 ESV)

Pammel Court

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

I ran, ran, ran.
Mom was in the other room and the door was open.
So I ran, ran, ran.

I ran around the buildings—
The corrugated alleys [1] that I had played in many times.
Around and around.

I found an open door and in I ran.
There was a bulletin board in front of the counter.
And pool tables everywhere.
And Mom came to pick me up.


In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
(Ps 22:4 ESV)


By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The apartments were a playground—
A guinea pig lived underneath the recreation center that was across the street and down a ways
Behind the recreation center was a baseball field and then a creek with soft black mud which disappeared in a tunnel under the road.

The creek was mysterious.
I remember being tempted there—a friend dared me to step into the water deeper and deeper.
I remember he left pictures of a woman without any clothes—down in the creek.
She must have been really poor…

Among the apartments, not down so far, was a tree that I used to climb.
It wasn’t very tall and I could not climb it very high.
But a mad dog chased me there one day and I climbed that tree.
That dog bit a girl I knew and she had to have stomach shots.


For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21 ESV)

Yellow Wax Beans

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

I like yellow wax beans.
They are easy to weed
and grow in all kinds of different soil.

Grandma packed them in plastic containers every summer
and put them in the freezer
and we ate them all year.

Apples make good sauce
and peaches require canning.
Chickens require cleaning.

But I always went for the yellow wax beans
when Grandma sent me to the basement to grab something for dinner.

[1] The quonset huts in Pammel court were built during the second world war by the military. http://www.ameshistory.org/exhibits/tribune/10/wf_1008.htm.

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2. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webAlmighty Father, Beloved Son, Ever-present Spirit,
We give thanks for the work of Jesus Christ, who lived, suffered, died, and rose from the dead that the Gospel might live to us.
May we know him and his power, share in his suffering and his death, that we might also be resurrected with him into new life (Phil 3:10-11). Break the power of sin in us, empower us to live in reconciliation to one another, grant us words to lift up in prayer to you. All the days of our lives. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

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ShipOfFools_web_10042015And if in spite of this you will not listen to me,
then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins,
and I will break the pride of your power …
And your strength shall be spent in vain (Lev 26:18-19 ESV).


By Stephen W. Hiemstra

I loved to stand in the back seat of my Dad’s lime green 1953 Chrysler
and look over his shoulder as he drove.
I could see everything!
As a I stood there, I imagined driving my own car—
not a bicycle or a vespa or a pickup
but a great big powerful car, with a shinny hood ornament, white-walled tires,
and plenty of head room for my fedora—just like Dad’s.

But sometimes Fords are good too—Grandpa drove a Ford.

Chrysler’s don’t like hills and rural route 2 outside Osky is mostly gravel and hills.
I saw everything.
Dad drove up the hill; then, he rolled back down.
Dad drove up the hill; then, he rolled back down again.
Then, he just parked the car next to the post box and walked up the hill in the snow.
I offered to come along but he told me to wait in the car and take care of my Mom and sister.
I thought it was odd that our great big powerful Chrysler would be bothered by a little hill.

After a bit, Grandpa drove down the hill with his Ford 2N.
Dad saw everything
looking over his shoulder
while he stood on the swinging drawbar in the back.
They hooked up the car to the tractor with a chain and towed it up the hill to the house.

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1. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra


Holy Spirit,

I believe in Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead.
Come into my life, help me to renounce and grieve the sin in my life that separates me from God.
Cleanse me of this sin, renew your spirit within me so that I will not sin any further.
Break any chains that bind me to the past—be they pains or sorrows or grievous temptations, that I might freely welcome God, the father, into my life, who through Christ Jesus can bridge any gap and heal any affliction, now and always.
In Jesus’ previous name, Amen.

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