My Summer 2019 Baseball Read

EHarwell-my-life-2001As you may know by now, each summer I try to read a book with a baseball theme – sometimes history, sometimes humor – but always centered on America’s past time and my favorite summer enjoyment. My last one celebrated the Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series championship! That was a great read and kept alive my memory of that historic victory by the “Cubbies”.

This year I am reading a book that is a collection of baseball stories from the pen of sports journalist and long-time Detroit Tigers baseball radio announcer Ernie Harwell. Found in a local thrift store this winter, the book is a 2001 Detroit Free Press publication and titled, Ernie Harwell: Stories from My Life in Baseball. (Harwell wrote a baseball column for the Detroit Free Press for many years and other of his stories have been published also.)

I grew up listening to him on the radio and have fond memories of his lively broadcasting (For example, after a player was called out on strikes, he would declare, “He stood there like a house by the side of the road!”).

This book contains Harwell’s short stories of baseball players, managers, and events and is written in the same lively and interesting style with which he announced the games. They are fun to read. Allow me to share one with you today involving a famous MLB pitcher who had Michigan roots, longed to play for the Tigers as a child, started with them, but was traded and became famous with another team [He is now a TV announcer for MLB.]. Here you go:

John Smoltz was destined to be a Tiger. His grandfather worked on the Tiger Stadium grounds crews. And as a Lansing [MI] sandlotter, John dreamed of the day when he would pitch for the Tigers.

He signed with Detroit on Sept.22, 1985, and began to pursue that dream. Then came the shock of his baseball life on Au.12, 1987.

‘I was in the dugout at Glen Falls [NY]’, he recalled. Somebody handed me two notes. One said, “Urgent. Call your father.” The other said to call Tiger Stadium.’

John called his dad first.

‘Have you heard?’ his father asked?

‘No, what?’

‘You’ve been traded to Atlanta. I saw it on the news.’

‘I couldn’t believe it, ‘ John said. ‘My dream of pitching for the Tigers was over. I called Tiger Stadium and Dave Miller confirmed the trade. Detroit was swapping me for Doyle Alexander. The Braves wanted me to report immediately to Richmond.’

…Since he was 7, Smoltz had loved the Tigers. He heard all their games on the radio. His dad and brothers would drive from Lansing to see the Tigers. His grandfather would interrupt his grounds crew duty, grab John by the hand, and introduce him to team executives Bill Lajoie and Jim Campbell.

‘Someday,’ his grandfather would say, ‘this young man will be pitching for you guys.’

…He was a Tiger for three years until the Alexander trade. Then he became a star with Atlanta.

But he will never forget Aug.12, 1987, and the trade that changed the career of a young pitcher who had been destined to be a Tiger. [pp.20-22]

Ann Arbor’s Wonderful Libraries


Last week Thursday and Friday my wife and I took a few days off to explore the city of Ann Arbor, a couple of hours east of Grand Rapids.


And while Ann Arbor is home to the mighty victors, the University of Michigan Wolverines, it is also home to a great study and research university, supported by its wonderful libraries, archives, and special collections.


Plus, the downtown area is packed with great eateries (Zingerman’s famous deli – our lunch stop!) and shops, including a few bookstores.


We spent time visiting several of the libraries, including the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, the sister center to the Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids (both operated by the National Archives).



There are terrific displays of Ford’s life and work, as a student-athlete at UM (he played football), as a long-time congressman from Grand Rapids, then as the Vice-president of the U.S. under R. Nixon, and then as President. The other side of the library features Ford’s influential wife Betty. It is worth your while to visit this important presidential library.


But there are other libraries that hold amazing treasures too. Probably my favorite is the William Clements Library, named after one of the university’s early regents who donated his collection of rare books, maps, etc. to UM and for which this library was built in 1923.


It is a beautiful old structure, designed with Italian renaissance style. And the holdings are truly amazing.


Another wonderful library was the Hatcher Graduate Library, especially its special collections. This included a room which held the desk of poet Robert Frost who taught at UM,  the rare St. John’s Bible, and a 2nd-3rd century Greek papyrus (P-46) of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians (chapters 11-12).



But the other libraries are wonderful too (all in a cluster in the central campus area), such as this one.



And so is the Museum of Art located in that same cluster.



One of the first rooms you enter is full of art with Christian and biblical themes – from the Flood to Esther, to St. John on Patmos.



And, of course, among the shops in town we visited was a classic old bookstore, and another store that had some neat book art.


But don’t worry, our trip was not just about libraries and bookstores. We also did some other shopping, spent a few hours at Ikea in nearby Canton, and played a round of golf on the way home. Two great days of relaxing while profiting from the world of books, archives, and history.20190607_100724-effects
The Lawyers Club at UM.

PRC Archives: Some New/ Old Pics – Two Churches and a Minister

Hope PRC (Walker, MI) donated some pictures to the PRC archives this week (along with some documents) and we have been enjoying them at seminary.

Many are from the 1980s and include several from PRC synods (hosted by First-GR, Hope, and SW PRCs), a PR Christian School convention (at Covenant CHS in Grand Rapids, MI), Hope’s early involvement in Singapore, and a PRYP’s Convention they hosted. There are also some individual photos of ministers and churches, and it is some of these I feature here today.

The minister is easily recognized – Rev. Marinus Schipper (1906-1985). He served the Protestant Reformed congregations of Grand Haven, MI, Second (later SW) in Wyoming, MI (twice), South Holland, IL, and SE in Grand Rapids, MI. Rev. Schipper was a powerful preacher and I remember well hearing him in my home church of Hope as a young man.

But perhaps we can make you guess which church he is in in the photo to the right below.


We also have two pictures of old PRC buildings, and these we will make into a mystery photo-guess for you. Here they are – see how you do!

I have to admit, I did not recognize either of them and had to receive help from a certain professor. If I mention him, it may give away the answers. That’s the only clue you get! 🙂


If you recognize them, let our readers know!

Published in: on March 14, 2019 at 8:28 PM  Comments (10)  

Michigan History, PRC Archives, and Maple Syrup *(Tree-tap Update!)


This morning I attended a special seminar on “Archives 101” at the headquarters of the Historical Society of Michigan (HSM) in our state capital of Lansing (in the Meijer Education Center). Having recently become a member of the society, I not only receive the Michigan History Magazine and other benefits, but also access to special seminars and workshops relating to our state’s history and archives. And lest we forget, much of that history includes her Christian churches, ministries, and missions, several of which were represented at this seminar.

Official Seal - BLUE-HSMich

Today’s seminar was a basic but profitable survey of how to do archiving. Being new to the position of archivist for our denomination, I want to learn from those who are experienced in the field. Not only was the presentation instructive (with many helpful handouts), but so also was the networking with the people in attendance.  As each of us introduced himself or herself and described our roles, I was struck by the fact that many of us are in the same positions and circumstances: serving in dual roles (librarian-archivist, or curator-archivist, or church secretary-historian) in small settings (small-town museums, collections, libraries) and facing quite similar needs (limited budgets, helpers, and space)! But that’s what makes it such a benefit to talk to one another about the what, how, and why of archiving. I was glad I took the time to go to this seminar.

Michigan-History-coverAnd I will take this opportunity to encourage our teachers and Christian schools in Michigan to take advantage of the manifold resources of the HSM, including the magazine and many history workshops and tours. The Society has a section on the website just for teachers and the MH Magazine also has a special children’s edition.

Speaking of Michigan history, did you that the famous Mackinac Island used to be one of our National Parks – the second one, in fact?



And that leads into another great Michigan past time – making maple syrup. While more common in the northern portion of the state, it can be done wherever there are good maples trees – including on the PRC Seminary property. That’s right, this week (yesterday), one of our pre-seminary students, Doner Bartolon and his son Ian, tapped into some of our maple trees so as to experience firsthand the fine art of maple-syrup making.


So I took them around and we picked out some good hard maples; then Ian and his dad did the drilling and I helped Ian with the tapping; soon the sap started to flow into the jugs they made! With warmer weather in the forecast, it is a good time to start the process. We’ll see how the syrup turns out!

Jake Green |

MLive carried a story about Michigan’s maple-syrup industry this Wednesday (March 6). Check out that fascinating report here.

*UPDATE! I checked the trees today and guess what?! The jugs are filling and some are full! Check out these two on tree #1:




And, finally, we should give you a little update on the new archive addition going out the back of the library. As you can see, not much more had been done in the last few weeks, thanks to the frigid temps and snow-laden clouds in our neck of the woods.


But, there’s hope. Today was sunny and the temp finally climbed above freezing. Ice was melting and snow receding. Word is that Bosveld plans to return next week and finish enclosing the structure so that work can begin inside. That is good news!


Of Ice Storms, Michigan Skiing, and Things Bookish

While this Friday quickly slips away, we can still get in a “Friday Fun” post, featuring things related to this week’s ice storms in West Michigan, some old skiing pictures in our great state (thanks to MLive), and some great book items from Book Patrol.

First, a few pictures of the fruits of the ice storms that hit us Wednesday and Thursday mornings of this week. Last week the Lord’s snow left a trail of beauty; this week it was His ice. Here are a few pictures from around the seminary property.





The second item is also winter related. Today MLive news featured some vintage skiing pictures taken in various parts of our state, mostly in the north country, as you might guess. I love these old photos and give a few here. Find more at this news link.

And finally, Book Patrol has been having some great book-related posts lately, including this neat one featuring some new scroll books being published. Check these out at this link (here’s an example):

Another Michigan Winter Wonderland (Designed and Directed by Our Great God)


It has been a wintry, blustery, snowy, and icy week here in West Michigan. From Monday through Thursday we were under a winter storm warning, with steadily plummeting temperatures and heavy, driving snow – first from the east and then from the west, as a northern “polar vortex” enveloped us and triggered our lake-effect “snow machine.

Drift out the back door of seminary.

Caps on the phone and power boxes on the side of seminary.

We estimate we had close to if not over two feet of snow (yes, that’s 24 inches!) – and that doesn’t include the drifts. You will see a series of pictures I took out the front door this week, as the snow accumulated. I trust you will see the progression. 🙂


Due to the snow and icy roads, as well as the below-zero temperatures (-15 F plus windchill!) our faculty cancelled two days of classes (Wednesday and Thursday). Which means we squeezed in two days – Tuesday and today (Friday). For those who may not remember this, Mondays are reserved for practice preaching and catechism instruction by our professors and students.


Even the wild turkeys were thrown off on Wednesday, as the driving snow and bitter cold led them to roost in the trees by four in the afternoon already! Why they think going higher in a tree on a day like that is going to be warmer is beyond me. The Eskimos have it right: bury yourself in it to find shelter and warmth.


Obviously, no work could be done on the seminary addition (archives and offices).

20190130_135751Personally, I think the snow adds to the cozy decor of this future office. 🙂


But is often the case, after a few wild days, the skies clear and the sun comes out, and God’s handiwork in this season of the year stands out with a brilliant glory.

A beautiful Thursday morning greeted us, complete with a “sun dog” (formed by ice crystals in the air as the sun passes through them to create a unique rainbow).

A few images of our backyard and deck.

We know the seasons and these storms are prepared and directed by our Lord’s sovereign providence, and when you see the design of the snow mounds and drifts after such events, you stand in awe of the God who alone can design and create such wintry wonders. He is the God of infinite greatness and glory, and we are so small, so helpless before His power (and cold!), and yet so dependent on that power. He humbles us, teaching us to trust Him as our Father and live out of His almighty hand and merciful heart.


And in the midst of cold and snow, He gives us seasons of good food and warm fellowship, as we had at our special Friday lunch today. Among faculty, students, staff, and friends, Rev. Daniel and Sharon Kleyn joined us to talk about their life and work in the Philippines, especially the preparations being made for their own seminary. It was a blessed time.



And some of the little lambs of our seminary family made their own fun and friendship.


Published in: on February 1, 2019 at 9:59 PM  Leave a Comment  

PRC Seminary Addition Finally Breaks Ground Today!


After months of hard work planning and preparing for the new addition to the PRC Seminary (new denominational archives room and two new offices during professor transitions, approved by this year’s PRC Synod), and months of delay waiting for approval from the city of Wyoming, the Building Committee of the Theological School Committee (led by Dave Bouwkamp) finally received the “green light” last Friday, Nov.16.


Yesterday contractor Michael Bosveld secured the building permit and today ground was broken, with excavator Jay Kuiper doing the honors of preparing the site for the pouring of the concrete footings (tomorrow) and floor (next week).


Yes, it is getting late in the season, and it has been quite cold and snowy the last few weeks (it stayed in low 30s and flakes were in the air today too!), but predictions are for a mild winter (El Nino!), so the project is going full steam ahead! Besides. the work needs to be completed by the summer of 2019!



Once the footings and floor are poured in the next week, the walls can start going up (Bouwkamp Masonry). The TSC-BC would like to get things closed in as soon as possible before the dead of winter hits (January/February).


Once the addition is enclosed, the focus can be on the interior work during the rest of winter and into next spring. Watch for more updates in the weeks ahead!

Published in: on November 20, 2018 at 10:25 PM  Comments (1)  

American Archives Month – What Are You Doing to Preserve History? (And a PRC Trivia Question)

Did you know that October is known in archivist circles as American Archives month? Don’t feel bad if you were not aware of this and were not celebrating with great exuberance. I probably wouldn’t have known either but for the email reminders I receive from various library and archive sources.

Information Today, Inc. is one such source, and it posted this interesting note to introduce us to what archives involve:

What Are Archives?

Our first thoughts when we reflect on archives, their mission, and their purpose may lead to likening them to a library. This makes sense—libraries are where we find ourselves inquiring about topics, learning, and gathering information. However, archives have a significant uniqueness when compared to a library. While you may pore through books to acquire information at a library, it is less likely that you will find primary sources (or first-account records) on the shelves for your perusal.

Archives are where primary sources bloom. Primary sources—letters, photographs, postcards, recordings, film, maps, and the like—are paramount to archival collections. Archives are a location (physical or digital) where we can connect with historical content as well as current records.

Archives play an integral role in preserving our cultural heritage, ensuring that we have reliable information assets to support individuals’, governments’, and societies’ increasing information needs, such as genealogical records and ledgers. The archive is the entrusted caretaker of these resources.

You may start to see the parallel between archival collections for public consumption and your own personal collections of items. As individuals, when we gather items that hold intrinsic value—for example, when we document occurrences and events in our life or the lives of those close to us—they form meaningful collections of artifacts. A personal collection of artifacts is an archive in its own right.

This is only an overview of what an archive is; the totality goes far deeper. If archives have piqued your interest, October is the time to discover the archival institutions in your area.

One of those wonderful archival institutions is our National Archives in Washington, D.C., a place I have never visited but hope to some day (when I also visit the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian 🙂 ). For more on this amazing archives and its resourceful website, visit the link below. The photo above is from the NA’s collection, showing archive assistants working to catalog items.

Photo: spring 2016 southern exterior view of the MLHC

And for our fellow Michiganders, don’t forget the Michigan Archives (History Center) in our state capitol of Lansing. They always have interesting events going on, along with displays and presentations.

And, as you know by now, the PRC also has her own archives, stored in the seminary’s basement, but soon to have a new home in the new addition off the library being readied for construction this week as we write (trees removed and AC units moved in the last few days). This new home will not only give us more room for our expanding collection, but will also make our denominational archives more accessible and create opportunities for displaying them for public viewing. I am extremely excited for this to become reality.

But for this week, let’s bring a small part of our PRC archives to the foreground and make her history come alive with a little trivia prompted by a question of a reader. That question is this: how tall is the bell tower in the old First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI? You see two images of it here – one from an old bulletin cover (1964) and the other from a more recent trip of church history classes from Covenant Christian High.

I have picked the brains of a few former First PRC members and have a fairly good estimate of the height of that bell tower but not a firm number, and so I would like to hear from you. Go ahead, take a guess! Or, if you have more information from your connection to this majestic church building, please share your knowledge!

Source: American Archives Month | National Archives

Published in: on October 18, 2018 at 10:30 PM  Leave a Comment  

Final Remembrances of Life in Beulah Land – B. Catton

waiting-train-catton-1987For our Thursday history post today we take you back one more time to Bruce Catton’s Waiting for the Morning Train (Wayne State University Press, 1987), the multifaceted story of his life growing up in northern Michigan, specifically, Benzonia.

The author ends the book with his final reminiscences about his last year at the Benzonia Academy in 1915-16, when “life was extremely pleasant and singularly uneventful.” (p.235) Part of that pleasantness was the Sunday afternoon walks he and his friends would take. His memories are quite descriptive, though he writes that “when I try to recall that time I remember hardly anything specific.” (p.235)

But I enjoyed his “vague” description anyway, as this part of Chapter 12 (“Night Train”) shows. It is clear how much this little Christian community shaped him and his world. This final quotation brings together much of what we have looked in this fascinating book.

…I remember the spring sunlight lying on the campus, and the academy buildings taking on dignity and looking as if they were going to be there forever – which, alas, they were not; I remember the band practice, and the orchestra practice, and the long, aimless walks we took on Sundays, tramping off the last vestiges of childhood, seeing things for the last time without realizing that it was the last time, unaware that once you leave youth behind you see everything with different eyes and thereby make the world itself different.

We would go across country to the power dam on the Betsie River, or along the shore of Crystal Lake to the outlet; and sometimes we went down the long hill to Beulah and then crossed the low ground to go up Eden Hill, a big shoulder of land that defined the horizon to the east. …Eden Hill and Beulah Land, named by godly settlers for the Paradise where the human race got into the world and the Paradise it will enter when it goes out; or so people believed, although we lived then in the present and asked for no Paradise beyond what we had then and there.

From the summit of Eden Hill you could look far to the north and west, across the Platte Lakes to the limitless blue plain of Lake Michigan, with Sleeping Bear crouched, watchful, in the distance and the Manitou Islands on the skyline. Beyond the green weeded country to the east, hidden by the rolling easy ridges, was the lumber town of Honor, and if we felt like making a really long walk out of it we could go on over to Honor, walk around the mill and its piled logs – they were still carving up some last allotment of first-growth wood, although most of the country’s mills were stilled – and then we could tramp the long miles home by way of Champion’s Hill.


Published in: on September 20, 2018 at 10:15 PM  Leave a Comment  

Benzonia in 1916: “Requiem for the Homemade”

waiting-train-catton-1987For our Thursday history post today we return to Bruce Catton’s Waiting for the Morning Train (Wayne State University Press, 1987), the multifaceted story of his life growing up in northern Michigan, specifically, Benzonia and the Crystal Lake area.

Chapter 11 is our next chapter to reference, and in “Requiem for the Homemade” Catton indeed gives us a funeral message (dirge for the dead!) as he sadly reflects on the passing of one era in American history – the “homemade” life of its early settlers, of which his life in Benzonia and his education at its little Christian Academy were a small part and picture – and the entrance of a new era – the “industrial age” with its “applied technology,” ushered in by the lumber barons and WWI. Life was changing, and with keen perception Catton puts his finger on the change. Fundamentally, it was a spiritual one, as he notes in these paragraphs:

I had been growing up with the notion that life’s problems, although often difficult, were at bottom simple. To confront them took courage, ideals, high principles and unwavering faith. The heroes of the 1860s [he is referring to the Civil War men] had these qualities; the crisis of their day had been met and passed, and a permanent gain had been made – which proved that the world was becoming progressively better because the advance of man rested on a simple exercise of a few ancient virtues. This was one of life’s certainties, as revealed on a Michigan hilltop in the early years of this century. But if today’s crisis had to be met in an entirely different way than the earlier one, all certainty was gone.

And it seemed clear that it was being met differently.

War does one thing pitilessly: it holds up, before the eyes of the society that is waging it, the essential reality on which that society is based. It is a cruel mirror, apparently as distorted as the mirrors in an amusement park, actually (on the long cold glance) not distorted at all. And what it showed in 1916, for that and subsequent generations, was that the race had entrusted itself to a new belief. Its highest faith was now in the machine rather than in the spirit; in the mechanical devices man’s brain could invent rather than in the illimitable miracle that originally set that brain free to speculate, to plan, to dream and to hope. The only reality worth mentioning is the one that can be seen, touched, tinkered with, improved – or, at times, exploded. Get into the machine you have made and ride wherever it takes you. There is no other road to salvation; or to damnation either, if that makes any difference.

To which Catton adds these words about this “harsh gospel”:

So man can do anything if he tries hard enough, and to try hard enough is not simply to furrow the brow and flex the muscles but to make unlimited use of every resource at hand. Moderation becomes impossible,and if it were possible it would be regarded as sinful. The new theology had borrowed, without credit, one of the fundamental planks in the old religion: despite his disclaimers, man stands at the center of the universe. It was made for him to use, and the best and wisest men are those who use it most lavishly. They destroy pine forests, and dig copper from beneath the cold northern lakes, and run the open pits across the iron ranges, impoverishing themselves at the same time they are enriching themselves: creating wealth, in short, by the act of destroying it, which is one of the most baffling mysteries of the new gospel.

You don’t have to fully agree with Catton’s analysis to understand his main point. The old era had the religion of faith in God, embracing the supernatural and solid virtues, while the new era had the religion of faith in man, embracing what can be seen and pinning all its hopes on man’s abilities and technologies, while at the same time discarding the old virtues.

And we now know where this “new” religion has taken us. Indeed, we cnm well understand Catton’s “requiem for the homemade.” But, at the same time, we also know the true, abiding, trustworthy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He and His saving work are the source of all our hope and confidence as we face the future. Not man, not ourselves, not our technology, but Jesus is our hope.