Un Dios Que Escucha

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Sermón dado de El Shadai DC, Georgetown South, Manassas, Virginia, April 28, 2019 (English translation).

Preludio

Buenos tarde. Bienvenido a la iglesia El Shadai DC. Para aquellos que no me conocen, me llama Stephen W. Hiemstra. Soy un autor cristiano y vivo con mi esposa en Centreville, Virginia. Tenemos tres hijos crecido.

Esta tarde continuamos nuestro estudio del cielo en la tierra. Porque somos creado en la imagen de Dios, querremos hacer todas las cosas que vemos que Dios esta haciendo. Como dice la biblia, servimos un Dios que escucha. Siguiendo la sugestión de Pastor Julio, voy a enfocar por el ejemplo de la vida de mi padre—el otro Stephen Hiemstra como yo lo introduce frecuentemente.

Invocación

Vamos a orar.

Padre misericordioso:

Toda la alabanza y el honor son tuyos, porque escuchas nuestras oraciones, nos consuelas en nuestras aflicciones y nos rescatas de la muerte misma.

Confesamos que no somos dignos de tus afectos y te agradecemos por enseñarnos a amar.

Dibújanos ahora a ti mismo. En el poder de tu Espíritu Santo, abres nuestros corazones, iluminas nuestras mentes y fortaleces nuestras manos en tu servicio. En el precioso nombre de Jesucristo, Amén

Escritura

El texto de hoy viene del libro del Éxodo 22:21-27. Escuchen a la palabra de Dios.

No maltrates ni oprimas a los extranjeros, pues también tú y tu pueblo fueron extranjeros en Egipto. No explotes a las viudas ni a los huérfanos, porque si tú y tu pueblo lo hacen, y ellos me piden ayuda, yo te aseguro que atenderé a su clamor: arderá mi furor y los mataré a ustedes a filo de espada. ¡Y sus mujeres se quedarán viudas, y sus hijos se quedarán huérfanos! … Si se queja ante mí, yo atenderé a su clamor, pues soy un Dios compasivo.

 La palabra del Señor. Gracias a Dios.

Introducción

Muchas veces cuento un chiste que cuando hablamos a Dios las secularistas llámala oración, pero cuando Dios nos habla llámenla psicosis.

Mientras cristianos son acostumbrada a Dios que escucha, uno de los atributos más asombroso de Dios es que el nos escucha (2X). Por ejemplo, en el libro de jueces, leemos:

Los israelitas hicieron lo que ofende al SEÑOR; se olvidaron del SEÑOR su Dios, y adoraron a las imágenes de Baal y de Aserá. El SEÑOR se enfureció contra Israel a tal grado que los vendió a Cusán Risatayin, rey de Aram Najarayin, a quien estuvieron sometidos durante ocho años. Pero clamaron al SEÑOR, y él hizo que surgiera un libertador, Otoniel hijo de Quenaz, hermano menor de Caleb. Y Otoniel liberó a los israelitas. El Espíritu del SEÑOR vino sobre Otoniel, y así Otoniel se convirtió en caudillo de Israel y salió a la guerra. El SEÑOR entregó a Cusán Risatayin, rey de Aram, en manos de Otoniel, quien prevaleció sobre él. (Jdg 3:7-10 NVI)

En este pasaje vemos un modelo conocido como el Ciclo Deuteronomio que tiene cuatro partes: la gente peca, se caen en sujeción, llaman al Señor, y Dios provee un salvador (Deut 30:1-3).  Llaman al Señor se parece como una oración extraña, pero la punta es que Dios escucha a personas que sufra, aunque sea bien merecido. Es como escribió el Apóstol Pablo: Pero Dios demuestra su amor por nosotros en esto: en que cuando todavía éramos pecadores, Cristo murió por nosotros.” (Rom 5:8 NVI)

Este ejemplo del Ciclo Deuteronomio que vemos en el libro de jueces es especialmente interesante por que leemos también: “En aquella época no había rey en Israel; cada uno hacía lo que le parecía mejor.” (2X; Jdg 17:6 NVI) Este tiempo fue en muchas maneras como nuestros hoy día. Y sabemos que maltratamiento de inmigrantes, viudas, y huérfanos puedan evocar el furor de Dios. (2X)

Historia de la Familia

Estés pasajes tienen una significa especial para mi familia. Por que me padre trabajaba toda su vida profesional por programas de nutrición y alimentario por el departamento de agricultura de estados unidos (se dice USDA). Mi padre trabajaba como economista para programas como cupones de alimentos (food stamps), almuerzos para las escuelas (school lunch programs) y mujeres, infantes y niños (women, infant, and children—WIC). Mi padre fue conocido del padre del programa WIC (father of the WIC program) porque el ayudaba a empezar este programa. Los beneficios mayores de estos programas fueron inmigrantes, viudas, y huérfanos.

Hoy día mi padre tiene ochenta y ocho anos de edad, sufra de alzhéimer, y vive con mi madre en McLean, Virginia. En 2016 publicí su memoria con titulo: Mis Viajes Durante La Vida (My Travels Through Life)[1] antes escribiendo mi propia memoria para introduce otra gente a mi padre y aprendo por mi misma su historia.

La familia Hiemstra vinó a estados unidos en 1847 de Holanda y hablábamos holandeses por más o menos cien anos en la casa y en la iglesia. En 1953 cuando nací la iglesia de la familia empezó a hablar ingles por la primera vez. Mi abuelo se negó a ensenar holandeses a sus hijos porque el querró que ellos identificar como  norteamericanos y porque el creó que los holandeses en Holanda no más creían en Dios.

Mi padre creció en pobreza por una finca pequeña en el sud de Iowa. Hasta la segunda guerra mundial mi abuelo trabajaba la finca solamente con caballos y la casa no tuvo agua corriendo o baño adentro. Mi padre y sus hermanos atenían una escuela pequeña en el campo. Más tarde mi padre graduó de Iowa State University como uno de los primeros en la familia.

Mi padre fue un estudiante brillante, estudiaba duro, y pagó para sus estudios por medio de una beca a estar un oficial de la fuerza aérea (Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)). Después graduación la fuerza aérea mandó que mi padre sirvió en Corea. Más tarde completó sus estudios en la universidad de California en Berkeley. Recibió su doctorado en 1960 y la familia movieron a Virginia donde empezó a trabajar con USDA.

Aunque no teníamos mucho dinero cuando crecía, nuestras necesidades se satisfacían, teníamos nuestra fe, y nos teníamos mutuamente. En cada ciudad donde vivíamos, encontrábamos una otra iglesia que nos recibió.

Durante muchos años en USDA mi padre viajaba para empezar programas nuevos de cupones. Gastó mucho tiempo, por ejemplo, en Puerto Rico donde dos de tres personas hoy día reciben cupones. Cuando yo empezó mis estudios graduado más tarde en Puerto Rico, conocí algas colegas de mi padre por la isla.

Hace un par de años, aprendí que mi abuelo como joven quería ser pastor, pero no pudó pagar para sus estudios y se hizó granjero. Mi padre quedó trabajando en la agricultura mientras mi tío, John, hizó pastor. En mi caso, fui economista agricultura temprano en mi vida y más tarde terminé mis estudios en seminario completando ambos de las ambiciones de mi abuelo. Como joven fui muy cerca de mi abuelo, pero no supe sus ambiciones hasta después su muerto.

Final

Por fin.

Cuando fui a publicar la memoria de mi padre fui sorprendo que el no habló mucho del impacto de su fe por su trabajo. El es un hombre de pocas palabras. Pero toda su vida visitó la iglesia cada domingo y soportó la iglesia con un interese especialmente en misiones del mundo. Y fuimos bendecido mucho como una familia por su ejemplo. 

Adoramos a un Dios que escucha a nuestros llamados para misericordia y también escucha a las aspiraciones de nuestros corazones. Como el profeta Jeremías dice:

¨Porque yo sé muy bien los planes que tengo para ustedes —afirma el SEÑOR—, planes de bienestar y no de calamidad, a fin de darles un futuro y una esperanza. Entonces ustedes me invocarán, y vendrán a suplicarme, y yo los escucharé.¨ (Jer 29:11-12 NVI)

Esta promesa es real hoy día como siempre en la vida para aquellos que recíbela como mi familia.

Oración

Oramos.

Padre santo, Gracias por tu perdón y por tu presencia en nuestras vidas cotidiarias. En el poder de tu Espíritu Santo, darnos el fuerzo para escuchar más intensivo a las personas alrededor nos cada día. En el preciso nombre de Jesucristo. Amén

Notas

[1] Stephen J. Hiemstra. 2016. My Travels Through Life. Centreville, Virginia: T2Pneuma Publishers LLC (Amazon.com)

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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.

 

Other ways to engage with me online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2sqjfoR

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First Fruits

ShipOfFools_web_07292016“The LORD said to Moses,
Consecrate to me all the firstborn.”
(Exod 13:1-2)

First Fruits

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Around 1980 after I returned from year’s study in Germany, I returned to Iowa to visit my grandparents and other family. My grandparents had moved to Oskaloosa at that point, but continued to rent the farm to a neighbor who purchased the farm outright about four years later. Grandpa Frank and I drove out the farm to take care of some chores when he engaged me in conversation about seminary. He encouraged me to go to seminary saying that he would pay my tuition, but I was more interested in the prospect of entering a career in agriculture. I will always remember the look that he gave me—he clearly thought I was nuts to even consider farming.

Later in that trip I drove up to Clarion, Iowa to visit my Uncle Hubert’s family who all farmed a section of land that Hubert had purchased during the Great Depression. Hubert, who was Frank’s cousin and not a close relative, bought land when everyone else was leaving agriculture in those days because he felt strongly that families should stick together and that farming afforded the opportunity for children to grow up with roots that were not available to kids growing up in the city. Hubert mentored my father when he attended Iowa State University in the 19050s and then he mentored me when I attended Iowa State. As a local republican party chairman, he knew everyone and introduced me to the governor and several presidential candidates who would always stop by for a visit at local political gatherings.

Hubert’s kids did not pick up his interest in agricultural politics. Hubert set up his kids, a son and two daughters, in farming that same section of land and built himself a modest home on one of the properties as a retirement residence. His generosity led, however, to family conflict because his son, the oldest, believed that he should inherit the entire property. This disagreement led to a family split. When I would visit, I would be received at each farmstead and bear news of the siblings at each stop along the way. They were so close and yet so far from each other—Hubert’s generosity was not enough to overcome this jealousy and his pain ran deep enough that years later he despaired greatly, but always to himself.

On this particular trip, I was invited to a dinner party but everyone seemed a bit distant. I sat on a couch for a few minutes before I recognized that the young woman sitting next to me was someone that I was actually quite fond of several years earlier. She was one of Hubert’s grand-daughters and lived in Minnesota, far from my usual stomping grounds when I attended Iowa State. As we talked, she related how she had been a year in Brazil as a foreign student, much like I had been in Germany. She also felt rather distant in the group. Recognizing a common issue, I questioned other family members about why they were not talking with us. They responded that they did not think that we, as world travelers, would find their company very interesting. I quickly dispelled that idea; the ice was soon broken; and I was able to enjoy their hospitality to its fullest.

Hospitality was always a core value in the Hiemstra family.

On a later trip in October 1996, my office at the Comptroller of the Currency sent me to an agricultural bankers’ conference in Des Moines. Because my uncle, Dave, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August, I rented a car and drove to Cedar Rapids to visit him. Dave met me with complete grace and we spent the day quietly putting together puzzles, which were long a favorite family pass-time. Puzzles offer shy people the opportunity to hang out with no requirement that anyone be forced to make conversation. Conversation was certainly not on my mind—what do you say to someone dying that you will never see again in this life?

At one point, we took a break from putting puzzles together and Dave made a puzzling comment—“I don’t know that I am good enough to go to heaven”. I was shocked; I took his statement as a theological question; I was shocked because his brother, John, is a pastor and I certainly was not—at the time, I was only an agricultural economist—why was he asking me? I assured him that as a Christian his salvation was assured, even if life is sometimes a bit confusing. To make my point, I cited the Apostle Paul:

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:7-9)

If the Apostle Paul could suffer weakness and be saved, then so could we, I argued. Dave seemed satisfied by my explanation and remained ever gracious. When I stood speechless at his door, not knowing what to say, he reached over and kissed me on the cheek goodbye—Dave is the only man that I have ever allowed to kiss me.

Dave’s question about salvation and my grandfather’s offer to pay for seminary puzzled me for years. I later learned that my grandfather held the doctrine of the first fruits close to his heart. He was not himself the oldest sibling, but as a young man wanted to enter the ministry but did not have his father’s support so he went into farming. My uncle, John, was the oldest sibling and pursued a career as a minister in the Reformed Church in America. As the oldest grandchild, grandpa naturally looked to me to go into ministry and in God’s timing I did eventually hear the call.

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Navigators

ShipOfFools_web_10042015Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone
when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Eccl 4:9-10)

Navigators

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

My first small group consisted of three people—Jon (my best friend), my pastor, and I—who met on Wednesday afternoons in my senior year in high school for pizza and soda to discuss the Book of Romans and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book—The Cost of Discipleship (1995). While I really specifically remember only Bonhoeffer’s comments on cheap grace—

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living, and incarnate (44-45).

—those discussions have grounded my faith and theology ever since.

Part of my grounding came by way of Jon who after college went immediately into seminary and shared his seminary texts with me, which we discussed together. He was, for example, heavily influenced by Karl Barth and, at Jon’s prompting, I read some of Barth’s shorter works, such as Dogmatik im Grundriβ[1] in graduate school. Part of my grounding came more directly from my fascination with Bonhoeffer, which led my ordination committee years later (2010) to describe me both as neo-orthodox[2] and very theological.

Grounded or not, the backstory on our group was less encouraging—at the end of my junior year the church fired our youth director unexpectedly when the senior pastor retired. The assistant pastor attempted to fill the void created by her firing, but was not entertaining enough to keep the youth group together. The group collapsed until only Jon and I were left and, because the youth group was my primary social activity outside of school, I was deeply bitter about it. My bitterness continued for several years and, as a result, I did not attend church when I left home for college. At college, I cannot remember attending a single church event on or off campus at either Indiana University or the College of William and Mary.

My lack of church attendance posed no problem when I was away at school, but it was a source of friction when I returned home for holidays and summer vacation. Because my parents moved from Maryland to Virginia during my freshman year, the friction over church was compounded by a change in churches because the kids my age in Virginia were unfamiliar and hung out in high school clicks to which that I was not a part. Between the clicks and my own bitterness, I had no reason to attend church beyond the prompting of my parents. So Sunday morning we would fight, I would attend out of obligation, and not much came of it until I transferred to Iowa State.

At Iowa State University, I lived in Wilson Hall, which overlooked the dairy farm across the street, and shared a room with Dennis who introduced me to the Navigators,[3] a Christian group on campus and who took me to church on Sundays. The Navigators had picnics and other events around campus which I attended, just to get to know other students. Dennis’ church was nondenominational and, because I did not particularly like it, I began attending Collegiate Presbyterian Church [4] and became a member, not knowing that my parents had attended this same church when my Dad was at Iowa State in the 1950s.

Reflecting on why I was returning to church, I realized that the bitterness that I felt when my home church fired our youth director was directed at the leadership of the church, not God. God’s presence was real to me even when I was not part of any church. As a consequence, atheistic arguments never seemed real to me, even when I repeated them, because I knew God first hand and I knew that I had been blessed when I came to faith. Pascal’s Wager, which was directed at atheists, made perfect sense to me, even when I had turned my back on God.

An important atheistic argument starts with the observation that the existence of God can neither be logically proven or disproven. Atheists focusing on this observation prefer the term, agnostic, which in Greek means “not knowing”, suggesting that there is insufficient evidence to make a faith decision. Pascal used probability theory  to argue that the agnostic argument is logically false in that faith is a fair bet (hence the term, Pascal’s wager)—if God exists and you believe, then you win heaven, but if God does not exist and you believe, then you loose nothing. In other words, faith in God has a positive reward even if the probability of God existing cannot be established—just so long as the probability is a non-zero, positive number.[5]  Of course, if you know first hand that God exists, Pascal’s Wager is no bet at all!

Whether Pascal’s Wager seemed logical or not, I began attending church in my junior year at Iowa State both on campus and off. Unlike at Indiana University, Iowa State was close to my grandparents who frequently hosted me on weekends when they took me to Central Reformed Church in Oskaloosa, Iowa where I had been baptized and where I was always in the company of relatives and friends in Christ.

References

Barth, Karl. 1977. Dogmatik im Grundriβ (Orig pub 1947). Zürich: Theologischer Verlag.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 1995. The Cost of Discipleship (Orig Pub 1937). Translated by R. H. Fuller and Irmgard Booth. New York: Simon & Schuster.

[1] I read Dogmatik im Grundriβ during my year in Germany (1979).

[2] Barth, Bonhoeffer, and others started the neo-orthodox school of theological thought which was popular in the period from the 1940s to the 1960s, but since then has fallen out of fashion.

[3] http://www.Navigators.org.

[4] http://www.cpcames.org.

[5] Pascal’s Wager is mathematic proof that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov 1:7)

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Kaffietijd

ShipOfFools_web_10042015“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. (Exod 20:8 ESV)

Kaffietijd

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

More than a snack, coffee time was once an institution where some of my fondest memories of family life took place.

On weekdays, at 9 a.m., at 3 p.m., and around 8 p.m., grandma prepared coffee for the adults, cocoa for the kids, and goodies for everyone. The goodies included homemade lemon bars, chocolate chip cookies, or strawberry short cake topped with ice cream. Choice, we always got a choice.

Whether you were knitting, feeding the calves, or pulling weeds in the garden, everyone stopped what they were doing, came in the house, got cleaned up, and talked.  No one was excluded; everyone was invited; conversation was required.

Coffee time on Sundays was always more involved. No one dared to skip Sunday school in Grandma Gertrude’s house (or leave before lunch). So we were in church at 9:15 a.m. and Sunday school included a break for snacks. After church, we normally changed from our Sunday best into more comfortable clothes before lunch. One thing would lead to another. Being kids, by the time we were called, we were off hiding in the attic or chasing each other around the yard. Lunch would not be on our minds—the adults would bribe us to come to lunch with reminders of coffee time.

These Sunday coffee times might be delayed until after the cuckoo clock chimed at 4 p.m. A late coffee time almost always involved better snacks, fold up trays being brought out, and breaking out the card tables—who knows, we might even move on to board games. On occasion, the piano might be played and ice cream churned by hand—“kids today are so spoiled by that store-bought ice cream”, we were told.

A more formal coffee time on Sundays occurred when birthdays were celebrated. These get togethers were common because both grandpa and grandma came from Dutch families with eight siblings, all of whom lived in or around Pella, Iowa.[1] Oskaloosa, where my grandparents lived, was more of a family outpost, but remained within driving distance of the “Pella crowd”. Formalities took the form of a distinctive routine, which moved from greetings, to eating, to discussions and game boards, and then to goodbyes. This would involve a leisurely three or four hours—no one was in a hurry. And everyone kept on their Sunday best.

The greeting phase involved meeting people as they came in. After the formal greetings, the women gathered in the kitchen to properly set out the signature dishes, such as grandma’s steaming hot, chicken and noodles. Meanwhile, the men sat in the living room talking about the latest news or market prices for corn, soybeans, hogs, or cattle. The kids might run this way or that, but often we retreated to the basement to horse around without soiling our clothes, as might be suggested now and then.

Eating phase always started with a blessing for the food. If my uncle John were present, we might be treated to a few introductions and announcements (or a scripture reading) followed by a pastoral prayer. Otherwise, Grandpa Frank simply gave thanks.

Having blessed the food, we would grab a plate and snake around the kitchen helping themselves to the sandwiches, casseroles, apple sauce, and potato salad. A lime or strawberry punch was normally iced in a crystal bowl, ladled with a crystal dipper, and enjoyed in a crystal cup. Then, the adult assembled in the living room seated in front of a folding up tray with their plates and cups carefully balanced. Meanwhile the kids sat around the kitchen table and ate together unsupervised. Coffee was served later with the dessert.

The end of dessert marked the beginning of discussions. These could get pointed. My great uncle John, the local county commissioner, frequently chided me about the cushy government job that I would get after graduation. Of course, I had other ideas. At one point in my sophomore year, for example, I announced my intention to study comparative literature, instead of agricultural economics like my dad. The room went silent. After a couple of embarrassing seconds someone inquired: “What is comparative literature?” With questions like that, it did not take me long—before my next visit—to figure out what I really wanted to study.

Discussions were not always in earnest. “You have heard, of course, about that new government program that they cooked up in Washington? In the future, social security checks will be issued along with a prescription for birth control pills”…ah-huh.

Discussion was mandatory; board games were not. When discussion began to wind down, those not interested in playing hearts, dominos, or, some other such thing, headed for the door. It was as regular as grandpa’s daily bowl of All Bran cereal soaked with chocolate milk. Goodbyes then proceeded until everyone had said goodbye to everyone else. Weather permitting, the goodbyes included walking the most distant travelers out to their cars.

As the years went by, coffee time slowly died out.

My parents struggled to imitate coffee time when my grandparents would visit, but practice makes perfect and neglect leaves one neglectful. Interruptions during attempts at coffee time made conversation difficult; activities likewise cut into the leisure time. On the farm, a Christmas might last for two weeks; in the city, Christmas became a meal and afternoon discussion. We aspired to being relaxed and hospitable, but strived ever more diligently to keep our jobs, pay our bills, and advance our careers in the face of ever easier downward mobility. As my grandparents aged, travel distances seemed longer, schedules got more involved, and visits became rare.

Coffee time lived on during visits to Iowa. When my grandfather turned 90, he lost his driver’s license. So when I visited, Frank often requested that I drive him from Oskaloosa to Pella to visit his younger sister, Nelly, who was the family historian and a live wire—it was always Nelly who said what was on everyone else’s mind. A quick call and Nelly would invite some of the Pella crowd over to her place for coffee. Thirty minutes later on our arrival, out came the folding trays, the home-made snacks, and the coffee.

Born in 1898, Frank journeyed through three centuries during his 102 years. With his passing, Oskaloosa dropped off my itinerary. Since then, the chore of travel has become unbearable and the memory of coffee time much more elusive.

Coffee time lives on in the Hiemstra family picnic the first Saturday of August each year in Pella’s West Market Park. Picnic tables shaded under an open shelter are cool and inviting, as are the relatives that I still know and cherish. The coffee and the snacks are the same, but the folding trays, the leisure time together, and my grandparents are no longer with us.

More than a snack, coffee time (or Kaffietijd as the old folks would say) was a palace in time[2] that lives on in the memory of my youth.

Reference

Heschel, Abraham Joshua. 1951. The Sabbath. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

 

[1] Pella was settled in 1847 by Dutch immigrants (http://www.CityOfPella.com).

[2] Cite from Heschel (1951, 12). Heschel (1951, 6) writes: “The Bible is more concerned with time than with space. It sees the world in the dimension of time. It pays more attention to generations, to events, than to countries, to things; it is more concerned with history than with geography.”

 

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My Name

ShipOfFools_web_10042015

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

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

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

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

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

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

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

The Hiemstra influence was more subtle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

[2] The charge against Stephen was twofold:

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

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

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

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

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

REFERENCES

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

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

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

 

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Tractor

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

Tractor

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

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

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

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

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

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