Exhaustion

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Today many people have reached their point of exhaustion.

Exhaustion comes when energy fails. When I ran the Marine Corps Marathon, I reached the point of exhaustion on crossing the 14th Street Bridge (mile 24) and reached up to wipe my forehead and found only salt crystalsI freaked out and did not quit only because of the support of another runner. Exhaustion is the point when failure seems inevitable, like when the freezing person suddenly desires only to go to sleep. When you reach the point of exhaustion, you continue only with great pain and because persistence has become a habit.

At this point, the corona virus pandemic is exhausting everyone. People are starting to do crazy things, not even aware of how crazy they are. Discarded masks can be found everywhere; businesses are opening in spite of the obvious risk; people are complaining and demonstrating and fighting. Why? No obvious reason. People are exhausted and do whatever their hearts desire without considering the consequences.

Temptation is ever present when you are exhausted because you lack the energy to resist. It is no accident that Satan tempted Jesus in the desert40 days without food leaves one exhausted and unable to resist. Exhaustion from dieting leaves one vulnerable to the temptation to eatask Esau, who sold his birthright to Jacob for a pot of stew (Gen 25:30-34). Is it any wonder that the first presidential debate yesterday looked like a mud-wrestling contest? People are exhausted and doing crazy things.

When you are exhausted, the only rational thing to do is to pray.

§

God Almighty, Great Physician, Holy Spirit,

We praise you 

for your goodness in granting us life,

which we often take for granted, 

living as if tomorrow was always promised,

but knowing that it is not.

Break the power of sin over our lives—

forgive us for our presumptions, 

for our neglect of giving thanks, and 

for living selfishly for ourselves, 

As though we were worthy.

Thank you 

for your eternal presence, 

your healing touch, and 

for sending others to comfort us in our hour of need.

Break our bondage to worthless idols—

heal our broken bodies, 

our troubled spirits, and 

our damaged relationships, 

for your name’s sake.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, 

send us doctors to offer your healing touch and 

nurses to offer your comfort in lonely hours.

Grant us strength for the day; 

grace for those we meet; and 

peace in a troubled world 

that we might rest only in you, 

this day and every day.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.1/

1/ Taken from: Stephen W. Hiemstra.  Everyday Prayers for Everyday People. 2018. Centreville: T2Pneuma Publishers LCC.

Exhaustion

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: http://bit.ly/Norm2020

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Permission

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Have you given yourself permission to experience joy in life?

This may seem like an odd question, but it really is not. Some people need permission to be happy, as if they were punishing themselves for an inexplicable reason. Perhaps, they failed to meet their parent’s expectations or their own. Perhaps, they let external events dictate their inner life. Whatever the reason, permission has not been granted and they go through life grumpy and happiness remains out of reach.

Working as a chaplain intern back in 2011 in a psyche ward, I met a young man stuck in a very unhappy place with a very unhappy outlook. He invited me into his alternative reality as we spoke. He described a world where he was  tortured and sexually abused; where other patients threw feces on the wall of his room; and where he was very disturbed. I looked around his room; made an obvious attempt to smell the place; and realized that he was delusional. Then, I asked himwhat brings you joy? Immediately, he began speaking as if we had just entered a new room in his mind. Flowers were blooming; it was spring time; and he told me about the fun he had in his church youth group. He needed permission to be happy and I had given it to him.

Do you need permission to be happy?

The Apostle James writes: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (Jas 1:2-4 ESV)

Jesus himself advises us: Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matt 6:34 ESV)

Because the future is in Christ, our joy is complete and we have permission to express it each and every day.

Permission

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: http://bit.ly/Norm2020

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A Delusional Moment

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It’s helpful to break up change into a three-part movement: beginning, middle, and ending. You know the you are in the beginning of a change when you obsess about how things used to be. Clearly, the old ways are over, but you can’t help referring to them as if nothing had changed. The middle starts once you have have given up on looking back. The future remains hopelessly out of view and the past has been wretched away, Leaders don’t lead; most people sit around looking hopeless; and a search for ideas is about the only thing anyone talks about. The ending begins once leaders sort out how to cope with current problems and everyone races towards the light at the end of the tunnel. William Bridges refers to this three-part change as a transition.

A delusional moment occurs when caught in the middle of a transition when people prematurely believe that they have reached the ending of a transition and begin acting on that belief. It is not the same as an ending because the length of the middle phase is uncertain and multiple paths to the ending still exist. Think of a battle where the enemy still poses a mortal threat, but the leader of one army simply decides to stop fighting. The delusion itself poses a threat that cannot be ignored.

Unfortunately, we appear to be stuck in a delusional moment in the corona virus pandemic where individually and corporately people want to declare premature victory. The individual delusion is that life can return to norm without consequencekids can go to school, young people can party, masks are uncomfortable and need not be worn. The corporate delusion is that a vaccine is just around the corner and will be available to everyoneno hard decisions required.

Several reasons can be given for the reality and threat posed by this delusion. The first is probably the most important —the corona virus is an invisible threat and the costs of taking precautions are real. Real jobs have been lost; real disruptions to life have been suffered. Yet, many people still do not know someone who has been sick or died. Television fatalities seem unreal and many people no longer watch the news or read a newspaper. As a consequence, the lives lost are heard about second-hand, often through social media, which itself has a fake news feel to it.

The second reason why this delusion is a real threat is that the heightened vigilance required to take precautions is exhausting. Myself, even though I am a writer and need not go out in public often, my public excursions are important to maintaining my own sanity. The idea that “no man is an island” to themselves is not just a literary illusion. We need each other to retain balance in our lives. Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, observed that the stress of imprisonment was too much for camp internees and they sometimes committed suicide by attempting to escapea variation on the suicide by police motif.

The third reason why this delusion is a real threat is that it sets us up for a second and third and fourth wave of infections. The second wave of the Spanish flu in 1918 killed many more people than the first and its was aided by bad political action. Governments denied the threat posed by the flu because of the First World War being fought at the time. Today, denial has political legs because of the U.S. Presidential election—who gets elected and not elected really does matter and competence in pandemic management is a real issue.

The Good News is that we are not alone. Christ died for our sins proving that God loves us and will never leave us alone. We do need need to succumb to the delusions of our day, as the Apostle Paul wrote:

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:37-39)

My most frequent prayer is: Lord, why did you bring me to this time and place? What do you want me to learn? Some blessings come to us wrapped in an enigma.

References

Bridge, William. 2003.  Managing Transitions:  Making the Most of Change.  Cambridge:  Da Capo Press.

Frankl, Viktor E. 2008. Man’s Search for Meaning: A Classic Tribute to Hope from the Holocaust (Orig Pub 1946).[1] Translated by Ilse Lasch. London: Rider.

A Delusional Moment

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: http://bit.ly/Norm2020

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The Stock Market Meets the Pandemic

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The Corona Virus Pandemic has motivated many people to take a renewed interest in stock markets. Reasons for this new interest in stocks are varied. Some panicked when the stock market declined to new lows in March 2020. Others found themselves with a lot of time on their hands or simply could not be trusted to work when they had to work from home. In my case, I stopped trading stocks and commodities in 2006 after taking profits in the big run up before the Great Recession and was in seminary during much of the decline that occurred after thatthe March fire sale on stocks was simply too inviting to pass up.

It’s hard to trade stocks and commodities when you have anything else to do. The buy and hold strategy that was promoted for generations by Graham and others does not work well in the sort of bubble markets that we have seen particularly since the Great Recession, but the tech boom in 1990s had already begun to undermine fundamental analysis. This implies that you have to watch markets carefully to seek out good opportunities and cut your loss when things change. The investor who who does the most homework wins, which takes a lot of time.

The Decline of Fundamental Analysis

A buy and hold investor typically focuses on fundamental analysis of companies that can be expected to produce strong earnings over a period of years. Analysis consists of analyzing financial statements and studying industry trends.

Financial statements began to decline in usefulness in the 1990s when tech companies began issuing stock options to their executive in lieu of regular salaries. Salaries appear in income statements, but in the early 1990s stock options were a liability treated as an off-balance sheet item. After tech companies used stock options to finance their early years, other companies followed suit and executive incomes exploded even as real earnings remained flat or even declined. Outside of the inequities they created, stock options undermined the credibility of financial analysis of companies in a variety of industries. Investors that depended on their integrity basically got screwed.

Stock Index Investing

Another factor undermining the integrity of financial analysis has been the growth of stock index funds. A stock index fund typically following all the major companies in the market, like the Standard and Poors (S&P) Index of the 500 largest companies in the United States. Investors do not invest in individual stocks, but simply buy shares in an index fund that purchase shares in proportion to the values of the companies listed in the index. This is an attractive investment option because the investor remains diversified and does not need to undertake financial analysis of any kind. While attractive to individual investors, this form of trading encourages investment in companies irrespective of their financial performancemoney comes in and goes out depending only on market trends. This sort of investing encourages weak managers and discourages innovation.

Sector Rotation Opportunity

During the first two or three weeks of the market crash in March 2020, we saw individual investors dumping their index funds and going into cash. Good stocks and bad stocks alike were sold by the index managers. This created an opportunity for savvy investors to pick up good companies at a substantial discount. Some of these good companies were in traditional industries (think of well-managed oil companies and airlines) and some were good tech and social media companies that have proven profitable when people work from home. Later, some of these solidly managed companies had their stock prices double and triple. This opportunity soon disappeared as professional managers realize that they could sell index funds and rotate into industries likely to do well in a pandemic market environment. This  reallocation towards new industries is called sector rotation.

The Bubble Economy

In a normal economy, savings are encouraged and the best companies are lent money to invest. When interest rates are effectively zero and companies are large relative to their markets and government regulators, discipline in the system breaks down. Add to that large government transfer payments and you find yourself in a bubble economy.

In a bubble market, the market goes up because of the inflow of large amounts of cash, not because firms have high or rising earnings. Normally, a stock has value because the firm has strong expected earnings. If you divide the annualized earnings by the typical interest rate, you get a present value of annualized earnings. Note the word expected. Investments are made in view of future earnings, not past earnings, and future earnings are by their nature uncertain. Happy investors may drive up stock values, implying that they are willing to invest and earn a lower interest rate, because they think there is less risk. More risk lowers the stock price because investors insist on a higher interest rate on their investment.

When the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates, then stock values inflate because competing investments offer a lower interest rate. A zero interest policy therefore suggests a bull market in stocks, even if companies earn almost nothing. Obviously, fundamental analysis allows one to understand this process, but it also suggests why most people have no reason to carediscipline in the whole financial system is undermined. Rumors of policy changes or political changes are likely to have a larger influence on market behavior during such periods.

Momentum Investing

When fundamental analysis and firm earnings are less important in determining stock prices, investors are increasingly forced to rely on technical analysis of stock prices and trading volumes. The analog in politics is voting on popularity rather than issues, experience, and competence. Technical analysis, sometimes called the black art of investing, focuses on analyzing patterns in stock prices and trading volumes in determining when to invest. A good technical analyst will use fundamental and industry analysis to pick stocks to pay attention to,  but buy and sell them depending on perceived patterns in the stock prices and trading volumes.

While most people think of day traders when they think about momentum investing, it is often based on simple rules. One rule would be to buy stocks when they are below their 200 day moving average price and sell when they rise about their 200 day moving average price. Computerized trading takes very complex rules and automates the process making it hard for professional traders to use a lot of the popular rules and make money.

Stocks and Life

When I worked in finance, I viewed it as a profesional necessity to learn how risk managers and trading desk actually do business. This assumption served me well in my career. When I entered seminary, I decided that I did not want to spend my evenings studying stock charts and analyzing financial statements. From an ethical perspective, investing is not itself bad (transgression or sin), but it may distract the investor from doing good (iniquity).

Most big market crashes occur in October. If you have cash and the presence of mind to invest when others go screaming towards the exits, then serious money can be made. Only seasoned investors, like my dad, are likely to buy stocks, like Apple, when they are just a few dollars a share and hold them for twenty years.

The Stock Market Meets the Pandemic

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: http://bit.ly/Norm2020

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Low Expectations, Technology, and Entitlement Attitudes

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The corona pandemic is accelerating trends in American society that favor those that embrace the Christian faith even as fewer people are embracing the faith.

The Education Dilemma

One of the indicators of this trend can be seen in the education of our youth. Thanks to the pandemic and the response of educators, perhaps the only primary and secondary students learning anything at all this year are the kids whose parents home school them. While public scholar administrators argue about whether school should be online or in person, the home school kids are studying as usual.

Home schooling involves two attributes that speak to proper adjustment to the current economic and social environment.

First, the home school kids learn to accept responsibility for their own achievement. If they do not learn, the the parents have no one else to blame. In the public school space, this attitude is rare. Teachers, like my wife, complain that administrators and parents both blame poor student performance on the teachers. Parents of particularly lazy kids are often the first to complain and make life difficult for teachers, which leads teachers to lower their expectations and raise average student grades.

Second, parents of home school kids have made tough financial choices to make home schooling available. Sacrificial living is required because having one parent at home teaching requires accepting a lower standard of living. Sacrificial living is rare today. The old ideal of having mom at home caring for the kids has evolved into having mom at home teaching the kids. This is totally counter-cultural.

The availability of YouTube.com lectures on virtually any subject has leveled the playing field for parents apprehensive about teaching their own kids because of their own lack of educational preparation.

My wife, Maryam, stayed out of the workforce for ten years while our kids were small. Home schooling was a rarity back in those days, but the prejudice from working women that my wife experienced was very real. Guilt over putting their own kids in childcare seemed to motivate this female harassment. Who can say?

Technology

Technological adoption in society has always lagged technological advancement. in science, especially when jobs are at stake. In the case of vacuum packaged meat products, like Boxed Beef, the technology was already available in the 1930s, but was not implemented in the food system to any great extent until the 1980s [1]. While many industries will likely accelerate their adoption of new, more automated procedures as a consequence of the pandemic, none will be affected as much as higher education.

The corona pandemic has forced educators across the country to make classes available online. Online education is especially likely to remain the norm in higher education because of cost factors. The student debt crisis in the U.S. is testimony to the observation that many families can no longer afford to send their kids to college. Worse, those that graduate often return to jobs that pay little more than they might have earned before spending the time and money to become educated. Earning $15 per hour is statistically a fifty percent increase in income over $10 per hour, but the increase does not bump one into a higher social class.

The reason is that the skills learned in college often fail to raise their productivity and the degree simply allows the student to outbid a high school student. I used to joke that when I graduated from high school, one needed a high degree to manage a fast-food restaurant and when I graduated from college, one needed a college degree. This is actually more an observation than a joke.

The punchline here is that online college education is cheaper to offer than in person college education. Now, as the pandemic has forced schools to offer these programs online, financial constraints are likely to make this transition permanent. In all likelihood this will lead to increasing cultural bifurcation between those that can pay for in person teaching and those that cannot. The networking advantage of those able to afford in person education is likely to be reflected in expected earnings, much like private school education allowed in the past.

Entitlement Attitudes

Going back to the home schooling example, the idea that student accept responsibility for their own education and have sacrificial living modeled for them by their parents suggests that home schooling is likely to become the gold standard for education for those who care about education outcomes. Public schools that encourage dumping on teachers effectively instill an entitlement attitude in students. This attitude has frequently been attributed to different ethnic groups, but that is simply prejudicepoor and rich kids alike in the public education system display this attitude.

The idea that kids have a right to be educated is a matter of law. The idea that kids are not responsible for their own education is destroying the economic fabric of this country because we live in a highly automated, competitive world economy. Spending public money on education without actually educating kids is a losing strategy. In a high tech society, education (human capital investment) is the key resource in success, one that cannot be bought.

Wrapping Up

Those unwilling to compete and live a discipled lifestyle for whatever reason are likely to end up in poverty. This problem is at the heart of why socialism and communism are failed ideologies. This is why I have observed for decades that poverty in America is less a matter of income and more a matter of attitude. The corona pandemic has reinforced this observation.

Faith in God, which encourages us to work hard, invest in our families, and take responsibility for our actions, is an important strategy for surviving and thriving in the world we now finding ourselves in. Of course, faith in God is not just a strategy, it is much more.

Footnotes

[1] Hiemstra, Stephen. 1985. Labor Relations, Technological, and Structural Changes in Beef Packing and Retailing. Dissertation. EastLansing:Michigan State University.

Low Expectations, Technology, and Entitlement Attitudes

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: http://bit.ly/Norm2020

 

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Consolation versus Transformation

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Is the corona virus a judgment from God on postmodern culture?

This is a serious question that almost no one wants to consider. Consider this. What happens if you adopt a party spirit and just hang out the way you always have with hordes of people? The party crowd is infecting their families and ending up in the emergency department with tubes stuffed down their throats. The folks that wear masks, social distance, and stay indoors (those that have a choice) are rediscovering family lifehome cooked meals, walks with the family, and gardening. What conclusion do you draw?

Your conclusions may also affect how you read your Bible. Is the Bible a book about consolation or about transformation? This is a false dichotomy because the Bible is about both consolation and transformation, but there is a point to be made here.

Some people today cringe at referring to God as our Heavenly Father. Who in your family was about consolation? Who was about transformation?

The answer to these questions in the Hiemstra family were always obvious. Mom was definitely the one that you went to for consolation. But if we were insolent or abusive or just a pain, then phrase that comes to mind is: You just wait until your father comes home!!! Dad was all about transformation.

Now, my mom was a patient woman, much more than I am, but she also had her limits. Do you think that God is any different?

This is not a trivial question or indication of bias. In the church today we have an obsession with seeking consolation.

Part of the obsession has to do with gender—think of the food fight in the church over who is the most deserving victim and who qualifies for victimhood from the most different categories. Where the Bible describes us as victors (1 Cor 15:54-57), we prefer enhanced victimhood.

Part of the obsession has to do with the selection and evaluation of pastors—where pastoral evaluation used to revolve around the quality of the preaching, now it revolves around who offers the best pastoral care—who listens the best. We want emotionally intelligent pastors with a listening ear!

Part of the obsession has to do with the therapeutic gospel—church members are no longer fellow ministers in Christ, now they are consumers of religious services. If God offers consolation in the context of our transformation, then what happens when we refuse to be transformed and insist only on consolation?

What do you think? Is the corona virus a judgment from God on postmodern culture?

Consolation versus Transformation

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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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

 

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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

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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