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.

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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)

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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.

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Drift out the back door of seminary.

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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. 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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

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

PRC Seminary Addition Finally Breaks Ground Today!

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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).

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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.

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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.

Wednesday Night Regatta at the Lake

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We (my wife and I) finally took the opportunity to enjoy a summer night out at Lake Michigan in Holland (State Park). And we remembered to go on a Wednesday night – sailboat racing night. So we packed up our chairs, books, goodies, and parked ourselves along the channel to stick our feet in the cool sand, relax, read, and watch the boats.

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It was a great night for the weekly regatta, a long-time summer ritual in Holland on Wednesday nights. The winds were strong and steady, the racing sails shimmered in the sun, the jibs were billowing, and the boats cut through the waves on the big lake like butter.

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And when the boats are done competing and they head for the channel before sunset, the parade is a pleasure to watch.

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Yes, Deane, I do miss sailing. Maybe someday we can have one together again. Until then, I dream. 🙂

Ah, but the Captain Sundaes treat on the way home…. 🙂 🙂

Published in: on August 1, 2018 at 10:51 PM  Comments (4)  

A Glimpse of the History of Camping in Michigan | MLive.com

 


For our first Thursday history/archives post this month (and a little “Friday fun” too!) we start with a great summer activity – camping in Michigan. If you have lived in our Great Lakes state and camped, or perhaps visited and done some camping in our great outdoors, then you know the beauty of our state parks as well as of our national parks, whether perched at a lakeshore, by a riverside, or deep in the woods.

Today MLive.com (a Michigan news source) featured the history of camping in Michigan by taking us back to the old days of camping – the days of tenting but also of hard-shell campers. You will be impressed by the interesting article Emily Bingham wrote and by the fascinating pictures of campers on various parts of our state.

Here is the beginning of her article and a few pictures to get you started. Read the rest and browse the other pictures at the link below. And if you are scheduled for a camping trip in Michigan this summer yet (as my wife is at Lake Michigan in August), then “happy camping.”

Source: These old photos capture the history of camping in Michigan | MLive.com

Revival Meetings in Benzonia

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 10 is our next chapter to reference, and in “At Halfway House” he describes his final year at the Benzonia Academy and his family’s life in the halfway house there (You may remember that his father was the headmaster).

There is a lot going on in this chapter (as is true in all of Catton’s essays) – from his strenuous education to the fun he had with family and friends. But the chapter also includes his portrayal of a deep spiritual struggle going on in his soul. As a sixteen year old he wrestled with the fundamentalism of his strict Protestant upbringing while his world and worldview were also expanding through his education and exposure to significant histories and works of literature. He was trying to find his “faith,” holding on to the core doctrines of the Christian faith (he mentions specifically the Incarnation and resurrection of Jesus) while also starting to question and even doubt many of the Bible’s teachings and history. It is in many ways a revealing chapter, a glimpse into the soul of this man who was raised in such a strong Christian environment.

One of the more interesting (and revealing!) parts of this chapter to me had to do with his description and evaluation of a week of revival meetings that came to town one year. He saw right through the Arminian and charlatan tactics of the evangelist. Here’s a part of that story:

…I had an especially hard time when I was sixteen and our church put on a solid week of revival services, complete with an imported evangelist, magic lantern, colorful slides to illustrate the more imposing parables, and passionate appeals to sinners to repent and come to the mercy seat. Why our town had such services I have never been able to understand, because there cannot have been a village in all the middle west that needed them less than we did. I know Father did not altogether approve, and the word was passed that academy students were not expected to attend.

…However, I went to all the services, (I think this worried my parents a little, because they did not care much for the way this evangelist whipped up youthful emotions, but they they did not say anything to me about it.) I had been worrying about my soul just then, and this seemed a good time to expose myself to the eternal verities. The result was not good. The speaker had the evangelist’s trick of frightening people so that they would give up their sins, and inasmuch as he was an eloquent man he frightened me and made me eager to repent. Unfortunately, I had no impressive sins to repent. Benzonia just was not the place to lay in a stock of them and I had never enlarged on the few opportunities that seemed open. However, I had had doubts – still had them, and nursed them along with some pride, and to have doubts was to sin. The evangelist said so, unmistakably.

At this point Catton relates the powerful story the evangelist told at one of the meetings –  “part of the standard equipment carried by any proper evangelist” – about a young girl who was told by the minister that she ought not risk delaying for one day a profession of faith. But she chose to “take the chance,” and that very night she was killed on a sleigh ride with some friends. “The evangelist did not need to add that she had certainly gone to hell.” To this, he adds this scathing critique:

Tough, beyond question; and, equally beyond question, contrived and phony. I was just bright enough to see that, and it made me furious with this glib, shallow man who demanded that I accept something monstrous. I had never felt that the faith in which I grew up was oppressive and crippling, but suddenly he made it seem so. For the moment I wanted no more of it.

Rather telling, is it not? Catton is quite perceptive about the false methods of such evangelists and how they preyed on people’s emotions, including his own. He felt betrayed by his own faith, and well he should have when it is represented in this way.

 

“Our school and our town existed in response to a moral imperative.” – B. Catton

waiting-train-catton-1987For our Thursday history post today we take you back 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.

Chapter 9 is titled “Under the Lilacs,” and in this section Catton begins by talking about the changes that came to the town and its area when the lumber camps had devoured the forests and left a desert behind. Writing with a bit of cynicism, Catton describes how his town’s idealism rose above the dark times this “progress” had brought.

You will notice once again the biblical references in this spiritual commentary on his times and the challenges the villagers faced. But you will also detect in the last paragraph quoted below thoughts about our modern society that are strikingly insightful and even prophetic.

The light that had been lit on our hilltop could not be allowed to go out just because the surrounding darkness was gone. It would still be needed to light a path for the feet of men not yet taught to lift their eyes to the sky. We never bothered to formulate this faith. We just had it.

We had been brought up to believe in progress, and we did not think of progress in material terms. Material progress was of course being made, and it was welcome; in 1913, for instance, some utility company built a power dame in the Betsie River and our town got electricity, even including a few street lights, whose dim glow (if you happened to be abroad on some lawful errand after other folks had gone to bed) simply intensified the immensity of the night. Some day, we believed, there would be a public water supply, and it was even possible to suppose that eventually the main street might be paved, although that was obviously  a long way off. But these things were not especially important. Our school and our town existed in response to a moral imperative. It was up to us to produce better men, and nothing else mattered very much. We were extremely unsophisticated, and in a way we were aware of it, but it was natural enough because in the time that had brought us into being there was so much less to be sophisticated about.

Now the trouble with the outside world that controlled our fate was not that it had cut down all of its trees but that it was developing an entirely new attitude. It had created a desert and called it progress, and it was beginning to suspect that man’s salvation might be in his ability to adjust himself to the results of his own advanced technology. To produce better men was all very well, if you had time for it, but the road to blessedness would probably be found in the conquest of his own inner nature. What he could do rather than what he could be was the important thing. That this approach might finally lead to the production of a barbarian who happens to be a skilled technician meant little; improve his technology enough and perhaps he is no longer a barbarian. [pp.172-73]

Now, having read this, ask yourself this question: As man has pinned his hopes (salvation) on his own abilities and technological advances in our time (on “what he can do rather than what he can be”), has he produced a “better man” or a “barbarian”?