Twenty-Fifth Anniversary

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Twenty-Fifth Anniversary

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

At the end of my summer in Puerto Rico, it became increasingly obvious that I had completed my work. I still lacked a thesis subject, but I had reams of statistical data which could be better analyzed at Cornell University than at the Agricultural Experiment Station in Rio Piedras where I worked during the summer. So I contemplated leaving the island earlier than planned which opened up an unexpected opportunity.
My parents had a twenty-fifth anniversary on September 13th, 1977 but because my siblings were still in school, they planned to celebrate in late August in Oskaloosa, Iowa at Central Reformed Church where they had been married. Leaving Puerto Rico early offered the opportunity for me to attend their anniversary celebration after I had earlier sent my regrets.

Because I knew that my uncle Hubert, who was actually my grandfather’s cousin, had to drive south from Clarion, Iowa through Des Moines, I wrote him and asked him to pick me up at the Des Moines airport to make my attendance at the anniversary a complete surprise. It would also mean that we could spend an hour and a half catching up on each other’s activities. Hubert was active in Iowa politics and always wanted to hear my take on events.

When we arrived in Oskaloosa, Hubert parked on the street south of the church and we walked down the steps into fellowship hall. Just by chance, my father walked up those same steps without recognizing me, because I was supposed to be in Puerto Rico. However, close behind him came my mother who immediately burst into tears when she saw me.

So often in ministry, we hear about people suffering anniversaries, which mark the death of a loved one or some other tragedy. Equally important are the joyous anniversaries where we remember to honor our relationships and celebrate the blessings of this life, even if it involves a bit of travel.


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Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra Celebrates a Third Anniversary

By Stephen W. Hiemstra celebrated entry into its fourth year of existence here in October. In September 2013, I finished a draft of A Christian Guide to Spirituality, my first published book and I decided to become more active in an author’s club, Capital Christian Writers.[1] The presenter in the September meeting made a compelling case for why authors needed to blog on a regular basis and I took her advice to heart.

Blogging made sense to me because during seminary I wrote a newsletter for three separate lists of friends and family and it seemed logical to migrate these lists to one common forum. It was a great idea, but it mostly did not work because email readers are not necessarily blog readers (or vice versa). This insight motivated a recent upgrade in my newsletter format. (BTW. Sign up for the newsletter and get a free pray book; [2])

Blogging also made sense to me because I loved to write. Writing is how I explain life to myself. Dr Jim Shaffer at Michigan State University used to describe this process as “writing myself out.” Life can be confusing—reflection and analysis are required. Self-delusion is so much harder when you “write yourself out.” Blogging is a accordingly form of journaling or even a kind of self-administrated therapy. When you are more honest with yourself, life is a bit less confusing and it makes it easier to be honest with other people.

Blogging with a theme of online pastor comes naturally for me, in part, because I strive to serve my readers, even if I get to pick the topics. I serve my readers through sharing prayers, reviews, and reflections. The topics hang together as my reflections have morphed into first drafts of published books over the past several years, in part, because I have an outline in mind as I write. For example, my current writing project, entitled Called Along the Way, is a memoir which loosely follows my aging process through the years. My reviews and prayers often dovetail with my own faith journey and often contribute directly to themes in my writing projects. Pastors normally live life out in full view of their congregations so my writing fits the usual pattern.

My most popular posts over the past several years are given in the table at the bottom of this post. Obvious from the list is the popularity of my book reviews and especially some of the more technical reviews. The most popular post reviewed, for example, is a leadership-in-missions text:

James E. Plueddemann.  2009.  Leading Across Cultures:  Effective Ministry and Mission in the Global Church.  Downers Grove:  IVP Academic.

When I wrote this review, I did not expect anyone would be interested, as this was a book that I read in seminary. Because many of the other popular reviews are likewise of highly technical seminary-style texts, I can only conclude that pastors, seminarians, and missionaries are prominent among my readers—and that’s okay!

This focus on reviews fits well into my theology. Back in 2013 I wrote a post— Books, Films, and Ministry  —where I talked about the role of gift books and reviews in evangelism. Reviews make books more accessible; books make deep dives into our faith more accessible. As pastors and Christians more generally we strive to make the Gospel more readily accessible to those we know and love. Hopefully, has helped you in this process.

If any of my thoughts here make any sense to you, please post a comment and let me know.  In particular, let me know what aspects of my writing have been most helpful and meaningful to you.  Thanks for hanging out on!






Plueddemann Demystified Leadership Across Culture




Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 2




Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 3




Turansky and Miller: Hope and Guidance for Parents




Heifetz and Linsky Lead through Adversity




Vote on a Book Cover for A Christian Guide to Spirituality




Martinez Family Ministry: OASIS Mission in Manassas Virginia




Metaxas: Bonhoeffer’s Times and Ours




Sabbath Rest as Cultural Firewall by Brueggemann






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Anniversary Changes

Oak_tree_09262015This week marks the second anniversary of which was established in 2013.  Thank you for your faithful readership!

The theme of, as outlined in the Home page,  “is online Pastor (or Christian ministry) and related topics.  I try to write about issues from my ministry and from issues of interest to readers.” This theme will continue.  I will, however, in the coming months focus more intentionally on my writing technique.  In particular, I hope to develop the use of a more narrative style taking a page from Jon Franklin’s work: Writing for Story:  Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction. Hopefully, the quality of my writing will also improve.

My experience is  that online ministry is real ministry. The most popular posts on this blog over the past 2 years have not been the “light and fluffy” posts targeting topical issues or favorable demographics.  The most popular posts have been those that have real substance.  The number one post over past 2 years, for example, has been a hermetical study, Kevin J. Vanhoozer’s: Is There a Meaning in This Text:  The Bible, The Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge (Part 2with 171 viewings.  The number two post has been on leadership, James E. Plueddemann’s: Leading Across Cultures:  Effective Ministry and Mission in the Global Church with 110 viewings. Both are serious reviews of serious seminary texts.

Effective immediately, I am reducing the number of posts each week to two: a lesson on Friday and a prayer on Sunday.  The lesson will take the form of a review or a reflection. I will occasionally offer other postings, as time allows.

In the coming weeks, I hope also to roll out 2 new series.  The first will be a series of prayers that I develop based on the Life in Tension series. This is an effort to honor the attention that my prayers taken from A Christian Guide to Spirituality in English and Spanish have received over time.  The second will be a new project: a spiritual autobiography.  As this point, I have not settled on a title but I will be working on an outline and title over the next couple weeks.

The oak tree appears on the Hiemstra family coat of arms and, in this case, grows in the parking lot at Oak Marr Recreation Center in Oakton, Virginia.

Yours in Christ,



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Anniversary– Celebrates First Year

Anniversary: Celebrates First Year

September marks the first anniversary of the establishment of!  This past year in September, I wrote my book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality.  I began blogging after I had a draft in hand, in part, because publishers like authors that blog.  As a lifelong writer, however, I was soon hooked and discovered that blogging could also extend my ministry.

Popular Posts

It is always interesting to see what posts are most popular.  Below is a list of all the posts which were visited at least 20 times during the past year.  Reviews are popular, in part, because authors and publishers often pass them around among their own readers.

Why Graphics?

Why did I include the graphics?  I have learned over the year that the most popular posts are often also the ones with the best graphics.  It is no accident, for example, that the only Bible study lesson (Galatians 2:  Jews and Gentiles) and only sermon (The Problem of Pain) to make the list also had great graphics.

Thank you for being a faithful reader!


Title and Link

Graphic Visits Type
Turansky and Miller: Hope and Guidance for Parents Parenting_review_07162014 62 Review
Vote on a Book Cover for A Christian Guide to Spirituality Available on 59 Survey
Metaxas: Bonhoeffer’s Times and Ours Bonhoeffer_06242014 49 Review
RPC Sharpens Shorts; Gets Buy  Shorts_09302013 37 Review
Results of Book Cover Survey Available on 37 Statistics
Galatians 2: Jews and Gentiles  Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra 33 Bible
Detweiler: Taming the Electronic Beast Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra 31 Review
Plueddemann Demystified Leadership Across Culture Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra 30 Review
Exercise Nuts Live Longer; Live Better YoungerNextYear_10262013 29 Review
Single but not Alone: Soul Virgin Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra 26 Review
A New Life in an Old Land by Thomas Smith Tom and Ana Smith 23 Guest
Present Suffering and Future Glory: A Chaplain’s Reflection by Aaron Gordon Aaron Gordon 21 Guest
The Problem of Pain, Psalm 51:10  Art in Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC 21 Sermon
Sabbath Rest as Cultural Firewall by Brueggemann Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra 20 Review
Keller Engages Galatians; Speaks Gospel  Keller_12302013 20 Review
Butterfield Journeys from PC to JC  Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra 20 Review
Farewell to SlopFest by Pastor Brian Clark SlopFest 2013 20 Guest
Music Therapy by Jessica Hiemstra  Jessica Hiemstra 20 Guest
Maxwell Wins by Learning; Inspires Hope  Learn_11222013 20 Review
Sande Resolves Conflicts; Makes Peace  Peacemaker_01022014 20 Review
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