Da Nile (A.K.A. Denial)

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Among counselors and chaplains, an old saw goes like this this, da nile (A.K.A. denial) is not just a river in Egypt. Normally when repeated, everyone would have a good laugh. Why? Psyche wards and prisons are full of people in denial. And they are not alone.

In Luke 16, Jesus tells the story of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus, who begged at the gates to his house. Both men died. The rich man suffered eternal damnation to hell, while Lazarus went to heaven. Interestingly, part of the rich man’s punishment was to be able to see Lazarus enjoying life in heaventalk about a role reversal—it’s like a bunch of hard-partying celebrities in hell being forced to watch livestreams of street people in heaven!!! So the rich man asks God to send Lazarus with a taste of water to him in hell. God refuses. The rich man then panics and makes one more request:

And he said, Then I beg you, father, to send him [Lazarus] to my father’s housefor I have five brothersso that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment. But Abraham [God] said, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them. And he said, No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. He said to him, If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead. (Luke 16:27-31 ESV)

In other words, the brothers’ denial is so strong that they would not believe and change their behavior even if confronted from a resurrected Lazarus. Interestingly, Jesus later raises his friend Lazarus from the dead in John 12:17.

This problem of denying fairly obvious advice, like wearing a mask during a pandemic, can be life-threatening. When I worked in the emergency department at Providence Hospital, about half the patients that I met were admitted with totally preventable ailments. Many medical problems are related to obesity and addictions, even if like smoking they are difficult to give up. Suicide is another preventable ailment that routinely kills thousands. I will never forget the 400 pound man in the emergency department who was covered with cotton ballsouch!because the nurses and doctors could not find a vein with which to insert his IV.

Because God frequently uses other people’s voices to speak grace and  truth into our lives, how do we know when to listen? Consider these tests:

  1. Is this advice consistent with Biblical teaching?
  2. Are more than one person we trust giving us this advice?
  3. Do these people have our best interests in mind in offering this advice?

It is truly difficult to get good advice sometimes and many people employ professionals to tell them what they might have learned from a well-intentioned, ten-year old.

Frequently, the advice that you get is a bit off-center, but it may alert you to a related problem, especially when pain is involved. Whenever pain is involved, a good place to start is to pray to God and ask—Lord, why did you bring to this time and place? In other words, what, Lord, would you have me learn here?

Let those who have ears listen and learn. In the meantime, wear that mask!

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, June 24, 2020

Interview about the Corona Life in English and Spanish with Stephen W. Hiemstra, April 24, 2020

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/HangHome_2020

 

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Dad Letter

 

Professor

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

When I was younger and exasperated my father, he was often at a loss for words. Now mind you, my Dad was an extremely well-published economist who frequently received invitations to speak, and even appeared regularly on a Saturday morning television show sponsored by USDA: Across the Fence (see Hiemstra 2016). He was seldom at a loss for words in most of life, but in his role as father of four he sometimes came up wanting. On such occasions, we would receive a Dad letter.

A Dad letter would outline our problem; express the disappointment of both Mom and Dad; and propose how we were to change our behavior. There were also consequences. These letters were not common and I think that I have all of mine squirreled away somewhere. None of us wanted to disappoint Dad.

A theme in a Dad letter might seem typical—grades were too low, expenses were too high, XYZ was inconsistent with expectations—but we took this advice seriously. Dad’s voice conveyed authority and the message was crystal clear. I never wanted to receive one, but I also never forgot or discarded the ones that I received.

Dad’s letter’s might be compared to the orders famously penned by Ulysses S. Grant to his generals during the Civil War. Barnes’ writes of Grant’s dispatches: “there is one striking feature of Grant’s orders; no matter how hurriedly he may write them on the field, no one ever had the slightest doubt as to their meaning, or even [had] to read them over a second time to understand them.” (2001, 190) A Dad letter was essentially like a dispatch from the general.

In some sense, the Bible is a Dad letter. This observation is most obvious in reading the various covenants that God makes with people like Moses. The first reading of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 reads: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exod 20:2-3) In other words the logic reads, you owe me therefore do these things. Later in Deuteronomy (the second reading) there is a long list of blessings and curses associated with obeying and disobeying the covenant.

I wonder what sort of Dad letter God might write us today?

Some have postulated that the corona virus pandemic is a judgment from God on postmodern society because so many of the libertarian ideas floating around today are directly contrary to scripture. Does anyone honestly  believe that God endorses a party spirit, sexual immorality, discrimination, power-mongering, and drug use?

Others argue that a God of love would never allow so many innocent people to die, yet God’s attributes are not limited to love. After giving the Ten Commandments to Moses a second time, we read: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Exod 34:6) Being slow to anger does not mean that God does not get angry at people who test his patience. God’s anger was expressed early after the Exodus from Egypt at the first generation who tried his patience and ended up dying in the desert.

The Bible offers consolation to suffering people, but it focuses on transformation, not on enabling addictions or abetting sin. This is a lot like my father’s Dad letters,

References

Barnes, John A. 2001. Ulysses S. Grant on Leadership: Executive Lessons from the Front Lines.Roseville, CA: Prima Publishing.

Hiemstra, Stephen J. 2016. My Travel Through Life: Memoir of Family Life and Federal Service. Centreville, VA: T2Pneuma Publishers LLC. (link)

Dad Letter

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, June 24, 2020

Interview about the Corona Life in English and Spanish with Stephen W. Hiemstra, April 24, 2020

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/HangHome_2020

 

Continue Reading

Remembering Billie Hiemstra

OurFamily

Obituary

Internment program

Mom’s favorite Bible passage was: (Deut. 6:4-5)

Mom’s Bible highlights this psalm of David: (Ps. 27:1-14)

Another of Mom’s favorite psalms is: (Ps. 121:1-8)

The final reading today is taken from the Gospel of John, which records the resurrection:

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, Woman, why are you weeping? She said to them, They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him. Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus said to her, Mary. She turned and said to him in Aramaic, Rabboni! (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, I have seen the Lord—and that he had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18 ESV)

The Gospel Story

The Gospel story is the story of Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. This story is the focus of the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—in the New Testament, and of faith statements, like the Apostle’s Creed.

Christianity began in a graveyard with the resurrection. The resurrection could not have occurred without Jesus’ crucifixion and death which was, in turn, associated with his life and ministry. Because Jesus’ life and ministry was chronicled looking back from the resurrection, each sentence in the New Testament should be prefaced with these words: Jesus rose from the dead, therefore . . . Jesus’ life, ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection are the Gospel story.

Christians, like Mary Magdalene, are the ones running from the cemetery to tell the rest of the world that Jesus lives (Matt 28:8). Why? Because the future is in Christ; death is only a transition, not the final word. This is why the Gospel message is described as the Good News.

Hazel Fern Hiemstra

My mother, Hazel Fern Hiemstra, was known to her friends as Billie. Billie liked to have fun, which we know because Billie was her stage name when she sang popular music in the early 1950s. We also know that she met the love of her life, my father, out roller skating with her friends. Mom and Dad were married roughly a year later on September 13, 1952.

Mom also had a serious side. Her entire life she wanted to become a missionary. Caring for this family was her primary mission field (2X).

If you do not believe me, consider how she cared for Dad these past few years. Dad’s Alzheimer’s rendered him unable to manage his finances in October 2013. Mom cared for Dad without assistance until she had hip surgery in January 2018—a total of five years. After that point, she required the assistance of professional caregivers. Even then, Mom never complained.

Mom’s interest in missions was not something new. Her mother, Marietta Salter Deacon, set an example for her at a young age working in missions in Guelph, Ontario already in the 1930s. Marietta died of cancer in 1941 when Mom was only about eleven years old. From that point forward, Mom cared for her younger siblings—a job normally reserved for adults.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Mom and Dad both volunteered for work with the Billy Graham Evangelistic campaigns in California while Dad was finishing his doctoral degree at the University of California at Berkley. When the family moved to Northern Virginia in 1960, Mom soon began volunteer work at the Central Union Mission in Washington DC helping provide for the homeless and alcoholics.

In this year of racial sensitivity, let me end with one more Mom story. Back in the early 1960s when racial segregation was still the norm, permanent press was unknown and women normally spent an entire day each week doing laundry and ironing to keep their families presentable.  Working at Central Union Mission downtown in Washington DC, Mom met an unemployed black woman named Rose and decided to help her find work. Together with other women in the neighborhood she set up a coop to employ Rose doing ironing for different families each one day every other week. Rose continued to work ironing for us for years and she was the first black person that I ever met. At the time, Mom was still in her thirties—not much older that the Hiemstra grandchildren here today.

Mom believed that she could make a difference in people’s lives. She always wanted to be a missionary and she was.

Remembering Billie Hiemstra

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, June 24, 2020

Interview about the Corona Life in English and Spanish with Stephen W. Hiemstra, April 24, 2020

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/HangHome_2020

Continue Reading

Homemaker Hazel Hiemstra of Falls Church, Virginia passes at age 89

 

Hazel Fern Hiemstra 1952

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Also Remembering Billie Hiemstra

Hazel Fern [Deacon] Hiemstra, known to her friends as Billie, was born October 10, 1930 in Guelph, Ontario Canada and passed into the glory of our Lord July 25, 2020. Up until her hospitalization for cancer on July 13th, she lived at her home in Falls Church, Virginia. She was the daughter of Richard Henry and Marietta [Salter] Deacon of Guelph.

She Is survived by her husband, Dr. Stephen James Hiemstra and three of her four children: Stephen Wayne, Karen Lee [Reed], and John David. Her four child, Diane Sue, passed on February 12, 2007.

Hazel also has grandchildren: Christine Nousheen, Marjolijn Narsis, and Stephen Reza Arash, children of Stephen Wayne and Maryam [Hajatpour] Hiemstra. William Brandts, son of Diane Sue and Hugo Brandts. Alexander James Reed son of Karen Lee Reed and Brian Malvan. Frank Henry, Jessica Anne, John Robert, and Lauren Nicole children of John David and Julie [Oweis] Hiemstra.

Mom met the love of her life, Dad, roller skating in Guelph. They were married a year later on September 13, 1952. The following year while Dad served in the Air Force in Korea, Mom lived with his family on farm near Oskaloosa, Iowa. Later, Mom became a naturalized, U.S. citizen.

Billie was Hazel’s stage name from her days of singing with an orchestra as a young person. Among her children she was known to play popular songs taken from musicals like Oklahoma and South Pacific and hymns, especially those made famous by George Beverly Shea, who sang for the Billy Graham Crusades. When Dad was a doctoral student at University of California at Berkley, Mom and Dad volunteered for the California crusades. Our pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Berkley was Robert Boyd Munger who later joined the faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary and was made famous for a sermon: My Heart-Christ’s Home.

Mom spent her entire life caring for family, supporting Dad in his career, and being active in her church, most recently Lewinsville Presbyterian Church in McLean, Virginia. Mom was proud of her mission work in Washington DC when we were young and as a nurse’s assistant at Vinson Hall Retirement Center in McLean, Virginia when we were older.  She would also frequently recount the different fellowship groups that she founded in the church over the years.

In view of the corona virus pandemic, a brief outdoor internment service for local family members is planned at the church. Details are being handled by Murphy Funeral Home in Falls Church, Virginia. A memorial service will be held next year once the pandemic has passed.

Mom’s favorite bible passage is also known as the Shema:

 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deut 6:4-5 ESV)

In Judaism, the Shema, which in Hebrew means name, is used as a daily prayer. Mom was raised as a Baptist, but became a Presbyterian in marriage.

The details of my Mom and Dad’s life are chronicled in Dad’s memoir: My Travel Through Life: Memoir of Family Life and Federal Service, which is available online.

Homemaker Hazel Hiemstra of Falls Church, Virginia Passes at age 89

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, June 24, 2020

Interview about the Corona Life in English and Spanish with Stephen W. Hiemstra, April 24, 2020

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/HangHome_2020

Continue Reading

Water Cooler Observations, July 22, 2020

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Christianity is the only major religion that began in a cemetary. When Jesus rose from the dead, death changed from an endpoint to transition point. This is why Christians grieve less loudly at funerals than nonbelievers for whom death is an endpoint. The Apostle Paul summarized:

 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 15:55-57 ESV)

Those who do not have faith in Christ remain under the law and have a different relationship with salvation and eternal life.

Too many families this year are dealing with end-of-life issues on account of the corona virus. For some, family members have contracted the virus and have found themselves confronting death in isolation. For others corona virus has kept them or their family members from getting regular care and they have found themselves confronting a life-threatening illness that might otherwise have been treatable. For many, these are sad times.

The following prayer from Everyday Prayers for Everyday People (Centreville: T2Pneuma Publishers LLC, 2018) has been especially popular:

******

Almighty Father,

 

We praise you 

for your love in creating us in your image and

confess that we are unworthy of this high honor.

 

Thank you 

for the faith to endure suffering—

knowing that until you return in glory

“suffering produces endurance, and endurance 

produces character, and character produces hope.” (Rom 5:3-4)

 

Knowing also 

that for those whose faith is weak

you are ever-present and 

have granted to us dominion

over every creeping thing. (Gen 1:28)

 

We claim this promise 

in the strong name of Jesus Christ,

who died on the cross and 

was raised from the dead.

 

In Jesus’ name—

we bind every dark shadow,

break the power of every curse, 

every abuse, and every evil thought.

We cast every spirit of self-destruction and 

resignation into the fiery pit.

We raise up the cross and declare: 

no more, be gone.

 

Fill every heart with your Holy Spirit, 

that lives might echo your light and joy. 

 

May every child confess 

that Jesus is Lord until you return in glory.

In his holy name, Amen.

******

In this context, grief is a huge issue this year. Obviously, for those who have lost a family member, they are confronting grief. However, the corona virus has produced many losses that must be grieved. Among these losses are lost jobs, lost freedom to move about, lost peace of mind, lost sense of security. Each loss sets off a grieving process. For my podcast on grief taken from my recent book, Living in Christ, click this link.

 

Water Cooler Observations, July 22, 2020

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, June 24, 2020

Interview about the Corona Life in English and Spanish with Stephen W. Hiemstra, April 24, 2020

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/HangHome_2020

Continue Reading

Water Cooler Observations, July 15, 2020

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

God speaks to us in our daily lives, more than we think.

This afternoon (7/13/2020) I spent several hours on the telephone trying to resolve a medical claim that arose because of an emergency room visit this past October. As I got passed back and forth between the hospital business office and my insurer, neither of whom seemed willing to help resolve the problem, I began to reflect on the challenges facing corona virus victims and their families over the past several months.

Keep in mind that the number one reason why families in America declare bankruptcy is a  medical emergency. What might be the expected cost of spending a month in intensive care? Who would pay?

This is not a trivial issue. At the moment the big political fight in Washington DC is over opening public schools in the fall. Who pays if a large number of teachers end up with corona virus?

*********************************************************************************

*   School systems be required by law to offer teachers being asked to teach    *

 *                  in person life insurance to cover their expenses.                                      *

*********************************************************************************

Obviously, a medical plan would be better, but my point is that I trust the insurance companies to evaluate the risk of returning to school better than any government official, outside the CDC.

Government administrators are under intense pressure right now from local businesses and parents to re-open the school regardless of the risk because parents watching kids cannot return to work. If they are forced by law to offer insurance, they cannot shift the expected risk of re-opening schools over onto the teachers who are in a weak position to defend their interests politically and weak position financially to refuse to return to work.

These are not happy times. Turn to God in your hour of need and he will hear your cry for mercy.

Water Cooler Observations, July 15, 2020

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, June 24, 2020

Interview about the Corona Life in English and Spanish with Stephen W. Hiemstra, April 24, 2020

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/HangHome_2020

Continue Reading

Water Cooler Observations, July 8, 2020

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

What does salvation really mean?

As an aquatics instructor at Camp Ross in Goshen Virginia, I was confused. Members of the staff would talk at dinner about having rescued a scout or saved another camper that week. I would think to myself: I don’t remember any water rescues? Did I miss something? Several weeks passed before I realized that a rescue involved talking a homesick scout about not calling home for mom and dad to come pick them up.

A rescue at Camp Ross was not a lot different from salvation in the Old Testament. The story of Gideon is emblematic. The people of Israel sinned in the sight of the Lord so the Lord gave them over to the Midianites (Judges 6:1). After seven years of bondage, the people cried out to the Lord (Judges 6:7). The Lord heard their cry and raised up a savior, a young man named Gideon (Judges 6:12). This pattern of behavior is sometimes referred to as the Deuteronomic cycle: sinning, being given over to this sin, crying out the Lord, and sending of a savior (Deut 30:1-3). This same pattern is frequently repeated throughout scripture.

One of my great frustrations over the years has been the need to remind people of their own obligations. The role of an Old Testament prophet as to remind the people of Israel of their covenantal obligations, minimally the Ten Commandments. The role of government lawyers is to remind their agencies of their legal obligations while their economists remind them of their obligations to pursue efficient, effective,  and equitable policies. The role of the pastor is frequently to remind people of their obligations to God, to their families, and to maintaining their own health and safety. still, some people seem bent on their own self-destruction and will not be denied.

In the absence of God, we frequently fall into a pattern of self-destruction. Preventable illnesses, like obesity, suicides, addictions, and corona virus, routinely kill people or reduce their life expectancy. Wanton self-destruction is a sad thing to watch, yet it is as common as dirt.

When we accept Jesus Christ into our lives, we are able to live into our creation in God’s image. God is good; he loves us; and he wants us to live meaningful lives. What we see God doing, we want to do. We want to be good; we want to love those around us; we want to fulfill God’s intention for us to live meaningful lives. In accepting God into our lives, at a minimum we refuse to self-destruct and in providing the Holy Spirit God makes sure that we don’t have to.

Salvation has eternal significance, but it begins the moment we accept Christ and refuse to be given over to self-destruction, as Satan surely intends.

Water Cooler Observations, July 8, 2020

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, June 24, 2020

Interview about the Corona Life in English and Spanish with Stephen W. Hiemstra, April 24, 2020

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/HangHome_2020

Continue Reading

Water Cooler Observations, July 1, 2020

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The Other Stephen Hiemstra

In honor of Father’s Day, I would like to devote this post to my father, Stephen J. Hiemstra. Dad has been on my mind a lot this year because in the middle of the Corona Virus Pandemic, my dad suffers from Alzheimer’s and I worry a lot about both him and my mom. Locally in Fairfax County, two-thirds of the corona virus deaths are of people over the age of eighty. My parents will be ninety this year and still live in their home in Falls Church, Virginia with the help of caregivers.

The remainder of this post will be essays taken from my father’s memoir, My Travel Through LifeMemoir of Family Life and Federal Service (2016) published in Centreville, Virginia by T2Pneuma Publishers. Check Amazon.com for copies.

Synopsis

In this rags to riches story, read about how an Iowa farm boy finds love, earns a doctorate, serves his country, combats hunger, advises presidents, and starts the first doctoral program in hospitality anywhere. 

Foreword by John E. Hiemstra

I am pleased to introduce my brother, Stephen’s, memoir from the days on our family farm through his service as an economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although I was 3 years older than my brother, Stephen was clearly the brains of the family. This became obvious when our family moved from one farm to another in March of 1936 and our mother, Gertrude, took me to enroll in the area’s one room school house, Walker No. 6 of Spring Creek Township which was 3 miles south of the County Seat of Oskaloosa, Iowa and about a half mile from our new home. At the time, the school enrolled about 10 or 12 students in the eight grades offered.

After enrolling me in the third grade, the teacher turned to my brother, who was standing quietly alongside my mother, and asked: “Who is this?” She was told that Stephen would be five years old next month in April. With a gleam in her eye and perceiving a bright, young man, she said: I can enroll him in kindergarten now and in the fall he can start the first grade. Stephen’s academic pursuit took off from that moment forward. As the brightest of the three sons in the Hiemstra family, he went on to high school, college, and graduate school where he earned a doctorate, always at the top of his class.

One of three boys, Stephen grew up on the 160 acre farm that our father, Frank, worked hard to support us. And it was hard. When the crops failed in the depression, our Dad had to surrender his other farm east of Oskaloosa. Having lost much of his investment in the first farm, he moved to the less expensive farm in 1936 where he was able to start over and provide for his family—without the aid of tractors and power machinery—having only his own manual labor. As boys, we learned to plow and cultivate fields behind a team of horses. But we never felt poor having the example of a dedicated and hard working father and a loving mother.

Not only were we well taken care of physically, we had the gift of God’s love. The focal support point for the family was the Bible and the Central Reformed Church in Oskaloosa, Iowa, a protestant church of mostly Dutch heritage members. The church was one of about 20 Dutch churches, descendants of a colony of Dutch immigrants who founded Pella (16 miles West of Oskaloosa) in 1847. 

Church life had a strong influence on our family. We attended Church twice on Sundays—Sunday school and worship on Sunday mornings and worship again on Sunday evening. We also attend weekly Bible study and catechism on Saturdays. Sunday afternoons were spent reading or taking a nap, unless we were visiting our grandparents.

The Christian faith deeply affected our father and our family. He prayed with us every day and urged us to maintain a deep commitment to Jesus Christ. As a youth, my father wanted to become a minister and started attending the Central Academy to pursue this dream, but family obligations forced him to drop out. So he encouraged his sons to enter the ministry, which I did—as a boy of seven or eight I took his dream as my own and studied to be ordained later as a minister in the Reformed Church in America.

This deep religious surrounding and commitment also impacted my brother, Stephen, but his faith took him in a different direction. Stephen wanted to be a farmer, like his father, but he wanted to be a more informed and educated farmer. His academic bent therefore took him to enroll in Iowa State College at Ames, Iowa. But, having experienced the academic life, he never returned to the farm.

After completing a two year degree aimed at farm operation, Stephen switched to a four year program in agricultural economics. Ironically, his love for agricultural economics led him to his other love, the lovely Hazel (Billie) Deacon, who he met while attending an agricultural economics conference in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. They were married during his last year at Ames. After attending the Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in college, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force where he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and was sent to serve as a communications officer at a base near Seoul, Korea. After completing his military service, he returned to Iowa State to complete a master’s degree and, later, to the University of California in Berkley to complete a doctorate (Ph.D.) in agricultural economics. 

After graduate school, in 1960 Stephen accepted a position with the in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In USDA, he distinguished himself in research, publication, and administration. From 1960 to 1969 he wrote numerous articles for the National Food Situation (NFS), but in July of 1969, he and a colleague, Al Egbert, published a study, “Shifting Direct Government Payments from Agriculture to Poor People: Impacts on Food Consumption and Farm Income,” which set the stage for the rest of his career. He soon joined the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) where he worked on: Food Stamp Program, the Child Nutrition Programs, the School Lunch Program, the Child Care Food Service, and the Woman, Infants, and Children Program (WIC). Stephen details the research and implementation done in these programs in this book.

Following his years with the FNS, Stephen served as an executive in the new Council on Wage and Price Stability created by President Jimmy Carter in October 1978 and later dissolved when President Ronald Reagan took office in 1981. At that point, Stephen returned to USDA. 

In this book Stephen chronicles experiences that he had, including an invitation to an event with his family in the White House with President Carter. In 1983 Stephen retired from federal service and moved to West Lafayette, Indiana where he accepted a teaching and research position with Purdue University. There he founded and directed a doctoral program in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, which was the first such program in hospitality anywhere in the world.

In addition to his professional accomplishments, Stephen remained devoted to his faith and his family. He was baptized and confirmed at the Central Reformed Church in Oskaloosa, Iowa and was later ordained as an elder by the Presbyterian church, another denomination in the reformed tradition.

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, June 24, 2020

Interview about the Corona Life in English and Spanish with Stephen W. Hiemstra, April 24, 2020

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/HangHome_2020

Continue Reading

Water Cooler Observations, June 24, 2020

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Racism as we know it, is a special type of bullying that preys on perceived weakness. Fear draws in bullies. Bullies pick their victims based on the likelihood that the victims will not fight back. I wrote about my own experience of being bullied as a kid in my memoir, Called Along the Way (Nemesis). Just like there will always be bullies; racism is an intractable issue that will never go away.

Analysts make a distinction between a problem that can be solved and a polarity that can only be managed. The reason that racism cannot be considered a problem to be solved because the bullying instinct is innate in all social animals. Bullying is used to establish dominance, the pecking order in a group of animals, birds, or even fish. Such behavior is tolerated by all societies, but it is also regulated by convention. Deer lock horns, but they do not gore each other; military officers are allowed to yell at enlisted personnel, but not lay a hand on them.

What makes Christianity radically different is that Jesus refused to tolerate the usual ways that societies establish dominance. We read in Matthew’s Gospel:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.” (Matt 20:25-26).

As sons and daughters of the Lord, all bullying of any kind among disciples is forbidden. We are to earn respect by our service, not by bullying.

Lessons of History

The current interest in history is healthy provided the broader sweep of history is not forgotten.

The Emancipation Proclamation did not follow from a slave revolt but rather an outpouring of conscience, especially among northern churches. Slavery was inconsistent with Christian ethical values, especially the words of the Apostle Paul:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)

In todays’s language, no ethic group is better than any other, no economic class is better than any other, and no gender is better than any other. Because we are all children of the same Father God, work to mitigate the remnants of racism in our institutions deserve the broad support of Christians.

What Will Demonstrations Accomplish?

If racism is intractable, are the current demonstration pointless?

No. Not from the perspective of the recent history of demonstrations.

When I was in high school, I participated in demonstrations against the Vietnam War. Antiwar fervor helped elect Richard Nixon president, as the current demonstrations will likely turn the fall election against our current president. Nixon attempted to end the war by escalating the fights and the bombing.

The Vietnam War officially ended in 1975, seven years after the 1968 election that brought Nixon to power. The draft was abolished and an all-volunteer military established. Still, dirty little wars continue to haunt American foreign policy.

Earlier demonstrations after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led to renewed emphasis on the Great Society legislation. The civil rights and Great Society legislation facilitated the development of a large black middle class in American that never previously existed. It also changed the tone of the public debate over race in American and made the election of Barack Obama possible.

What can we conclude from this brief experience with demonstrations? War, poverty, and  racism have not been eliminated, but our public response to each of these issues has been responsive to the political aims of demonstrators.

If demonstrators continue to focus on policing policy, policy makers will  likely be responsive. Virtually everyone believes that the police should treat people with respect and enforce the law in an unbiased manner. Widening objectives to other issues will be unlikely to garner the same widespread support.

Policing Policy Reform

Racism is intractable. Until everyone sees others as brothers and sisters under the living God, we will have the polarity of racism. Policing policy is another matter.

Police are bureaucrats who are, like everyone else, are responsive to those that pay their wages. In poor neighborhoods, not everyone is a taxpayer who earns their respect. In areas with a weak tax base, police are also seriously underfunded and overworked. Financing problems lead to recruitment, training, and attitude problems. This is why almost all urban police belong to a union.

The usual response to complaints about policing is to fire those responsible and hire new leadership. This may help for a while, but if the underlying problems of financing, recruitment, and training are not addressed, new leadership will not offer lasting change.

A key issue in the current debate about racial disparities in policing is the effort after 9-11 for police departments to respond to the threat of terrorism. This is why many departments now have a swat team as well as military style weapons and training. If the local department thinks of itself as a de facto chapter in Homeland Security, it is not focused on urban policing, de-escalation of violence, and coping with the psychiatric cases walking the streets. Tight budgets have already been allocated to a different set of priorities with the encouragement of national leaders.

Looking to 2021

The point in raising these issue is that racial harmony is not the only issue facing police departments today. Those impatient for reform will likely be disappointed. I suspect that large scale reform efforts will not be possible until after the November elections and well into 2021.

In the meantime,  little evidence of political reform can currently be seen. We have seen no congressional hearings, no presidential commissions, no white papers, and no appointments of police reform czars, normally the staples of a reform effort. Symbolic moves, like taking down a few confederate paintings in the Capitol Building, are evidence of political impotence, not reform. The political party conventions this summer will likely give us the first taste of what to expect in 2021.

Will these demonstrations alter the balance of power in the Congress in the fall? I suspect that we will not know until the votes are counted. At what point do demonstrators become vandals in the public eye? How many people have to die before people realize that demonstrations during a pandemic are a bad idea? Protracted demonstrations this summer could fuel resentment as well as support for reform.

Water Cooler Observations, June 24, 2020

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, June 17, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, June 10, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, June 3, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, May 27, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, May 20, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, May 13, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, May 6, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, April 29, 2020

Interview about the Corona Life in English and Spanish with Stephen W. Hiemstra, April 24, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, April 22, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, April 15, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, April 8, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, April 1, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, March 25, 2020

Corona Virus Versus the Flu

Black Plague

CDC Flu Statistics

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/HangHome_2020

Continue Reading

Water Cooler Observations, June 17, 2020

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By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Corona crazy describes a lot of the odd behavior that we have witnessed in others. How else can you explain people ignoring social distancing and acting as if the pandemic had passed? Partying, demonstrating, and politicians doing what they do all seems out of place. So do the periodical stock market ralleys.

Corona crazy is like responses to a game of Russian roulette. Some just don’t seem to understand the rules of the game and get killed out of ignorance, like the guy who plays with an automatic instead of a revolver. Some run from the game screaming and get killed running through traffic. Others get a buzz on pulling the trigger and start twirling the cylinders like there’s no tomorrow. Russian roulette is risky enough, let alone compound the risk by loosing your head.

Corona crazy aptly diagnoses my own sentiments over the past few weeks. After my friends at El Shadai DC prayed over me last week, my crazy fever lifted and I felt at peace, something obvious only after a couple of days had passed. I no longer felt anxious and have been able to work in my usual custom.

Experiences of Loneliness

The isolation over the past several months is reminiscent of summers on my grandparent’s farm in Oskaloosa, Iowa when I was growing up. We spent most of our time gardening, cooking, or doing chores, but gathered for meals and rested in the heat of the day near the air conditioner that hung out the family room window. Saturdays we might go to town for groceries or grandma’s hair appointment, but we really only saw friends and family on Sundays in church.

Did people go crazy on the farm? Normally only in winter when the weather served as a pre-existing condition. More normally, they simply learned to appreciate the people they met.

The Holocaust and the Affliction of Despair

Corona crazy is a bit different from normal loneliness because normal loneliness does not evoke the  fear that someone near and dear to you will develop a life-threatening illness. Corona crazy shares more in common with the experience in the death camps during the holocaust recorded by Viktor Frankl.

While other camp inmates experienced such despair that they committed suicide by attempting to escape through the barbed wire fences around the camps, Frankl contemplated the lectures that he would give after the war on the psychology of the concentration camp! (Frankl 2008, 82)  Because 27 out 28 inmates did not survive, clearly Frankl’s mental exercise proved resourceful and had a familiar ring.

Because we know that our future is in Christ, we need not despair about current circumstances.

How will your life be different after we have a vaccine and can return to a more normal life?

References

Frankl, Viktor E. 2008. Man’s Search for Meaning: A Classic Tribute to Hope from the Holocaust (Orig Pub 1946). Translated by Ilse Lasch. London: Rider. (review)

Lucas, Max. 2009.  Fearless:  Imagine Your Life Without Fear.  Nashville:  Thomas Nelson. (review)

Water Cooler Observations, June 17, 2020

Also see:

Water Cooler Observations, June 10, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, June 3, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, May 27, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, May 20, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, May 13, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, May 6, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, April 29, 2020

Interview about the Corona Life in English and Spanish with Stephen W. Hiemstra, April 24, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, April 22, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, April 15, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, April 8, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, April 1, 2020

Water Cooler Observations, March 25, 2020

Corona Virus Versus the Flu

Black Plague

CDC Flu Statistics

Managing Change 

Believer’s Prayer

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: https://bit.ly/Release_2020

Continue Reading