The Blue Psalter Hymnal

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This morning I left the house just before 7:00am to hit a community garage sale nearby. As I check out one particular garage sale, my eyes are immediately drawn to a type of font printed on the outside of a book. It sat among a collection of other books on the ground amongst many other items for sale. But what immediately catches my eye is that font! I have seen this font my whole life. As I child in church, I drew pictures with this font peeking through the piece of paper. The title of this book was “Psalter Hymnal.” The Christian Reformed Church has gone through a number of different generational hymnbooks, each one identified most easily by its color. I sat in church with the blue Psalter Hymnal staring at me from 3-7, and there it is sitting at a garage sale in Raleigh, NC!

So I pick up the book and I say, “I grew up singing out of this book!” The person selling the book responded the same, “I grew up singing out of this book too!” That led to a very fun conversation about how we are connected through the Christian Reformed Church. It didn’t take long to find out that he was good friends with a guy who would later become my sweet mate at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. It’s a small world after all.

The reason I bring up this story is because it illustrates how relationships get started. In this case, we exchanged numbers so we can get together to see if he could connect me with other people in the area we are planting in southwest Wake County. Getting out and about like going to garage sales opens doors and opportunities to connect with all sorts of people. Another example is garage saling two week ago where I told a guy I was Canadian and was promptly invited to join his ball hockey team. This is all to say, although we are gearing up towards a gathering and worshipping with a group of people in the fall, we will remain in this networking stage for some time. It’s a stage I particularly enjoy, and it’s a stage that never really ends.

The question I think is helpful for all of us to reflect on is this: can we be more available to be more relational through the more spontaneous events throughout the day? Keep looking for those Blue Psalter Hymnal opportunities!

Grandpa Benjamins

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Grandpa and grandma immigrating to Canada from Holland April 15, 1953.

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Grandpa and Grandma in 2011


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Grandpa always loved fishing. He loved to talk over a cup of coffee, but he had a unique introverted passion to fish.


This past week my grandpa passed away, and we are making plans to attend the funeral next Tuesday in Hamilton, Ontario. After preaching at First Reformed on Sunday, we will be making our way up north. It is all a bit surreal right now knowing that I will never see my grandpa alive again this side of my death or Christ’s return. He was a very funny, personable, fun-loving, man who loved to talk about the church. Every time we would sit down for coffee, we would talk about church. From the concept of salvation, to church government, to styles of worship, we loved, chatting and batting around different ideas. He would regularly say how blessed of a man he is, and how he doesn’t understand that the Lord would bless him with so much. He felt like he never deserved it. He was well in tune with his sin and his struggles. He never hid the fact that he struggled. He did not assume faith, but wrestling with faith deeply and daily. Still, he always came back to how big God is and how much of an impact grace had on his life.

He had a deep Dutch accent, and I will never ever forget the way in which he prayed the Lord’s Prayer before each dinner. Words in that prayer like ‘Father’ (Faa-der), ‘heaven’ (hay-van), ‘thy Kingdom Come’ (die KINGdom COME), ‘thy will be done’ (die will be DONE). His inflections in this daily prayer has always stuck with me, and I find I think about it most times I pray the Lord’s Prayer.

As a child, I remember my sister combing his hair. He loved having his hair combed! I remember pretending to drive his columbine visiting the old family farm in Blyth. I remember gathering eggs at the farm in Seaforth. I remember the annual Benjamins Camping. Growing up, I really can’t recall an event I looked forward to more than Benjamins Camping. Grandma and grandpa created quite the tribe! Campfires created a choir that would make the Lord smile! Other campers would rather we stop singing, and more than once a park ranger had to tell us to stop singing. More recently, I remember spending time just sipping on a cup of coffee in Hamilton. Even before we moved, grandpa was not his typical self. But we still had the great privilege of chatting about church and the latest happenings in Hamilton.

I remember spending an evening out with my family and grandpa and grandma back a couple of years ago. We stopped by Pier 4 in Hamilton for some ice-cream and he noticed some teens fishing. He looked beyond the black clothes, piercings, cold attitude and the heavy metal playing out of one of their smartphones. He walks up and asks them if they’ve caught anything. He just loved fishing. He just loved people.

Up to this point, this blog does not have anything to do with church planting. However, I want to conclude this one by including words from the very first blog I wrote. The following is an excerpt from that first blog. I include it because moving away from Hamilton was the end of a chapter. He was an important person throughout our chapter in Hamilton, and now grandpa’s earthly chapter is over, it feels fitting to include his words of wisdom:

I broke down at dinner time with my grandparents on [February] 19th[, 2013]. We were planning on leaving earlier that day, but we ended up leaving at 7:00pm. At dinner time, I asked my grandparents if they had an advice for how to handle the hurt of leaving. My grandfather at first said, “Just know you go with our blessing.” But after thinking further, he said with a serious look in his eyes, “It’s hard now to leave, but my hope is that the next time you leave a community, it will be even harder.” After a moment to digest his words, his sentiment was deep. He’s challenging me to keep setting roots deep wherever we are- to keep loving and to keep receiving love.

When we walked out of my grandparents apartment, I thanked my grandmother for reading Psalm 121 as she closed dinner. She than told me that that was the psalm the pastor read to them the Sunday before they immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands in the 1950s. They blessed us so much as we left Canada and shifted into gear towards the South to start a new community.

Throughout this process, we have prayed, and prayed, and prayed. We will continue to pray now that we’ve arrived, because in that prayer we sense the nearness and closeness of our Heavenly Father. That is one relationship that stays. There are no good-byes with Him as we now begin a journey of new hellos with others in the South.

Life Lately

Lately, life has been flavorful. First off, earlier this week our little Deacon had surgery. Deacon was born with a nevus on his arm, which is essentially a large mole that covered the surface area of his left elbow/arm. This past week’s surgery was the second out of three throughout this spring. The first surgery was back in February and the final one will be in June. Rather than go into the details of all three surgeries, I will mention that it has been a fascinating process. At the same time, it’s been a rather cumbersome for little Deacon. Right now his arm needs to be attached to his side until June 2nd. It’s been amazing how he bounces back so quickly from surgery, and we are thankful with how nonchalant he is about using just one arm. He has been a trooper.

Another important life event concerns my grandpa, John Benjamins. His health is declining, and he is now receiving palliative care to help remedy his suffering. I was so blessed to see him a couple of weeks ago when I travelled to Ontario to preach Easter weekend in Drayton. Heather and I lived 5 minutes away from my grandparents when we lived in Hamilton. This close proximity allowed us to spend a significant amount of time with them. It has been tough being physically distant which, in turn, affects the way we are able to be a support.

Church planting has also been a very exciting process lately. We are learning lots as we are going through a Bible study on Wednesday nights. We have a really great group, which makes hosting these evenings a pleasure. I am going to be preaching at several locations at different churches this spring and summer. The purpose of these preaching engagements is twofold: to build lasting relationships with local congregations, but also to ask members to consider forwarding contacts of potential leaders or those who may want to inquire about Christianity in a church plant type setting. Finally, we are planning for the fall and determining how best to proceed forward with weekly or every other week gatherings.

With all these things going on, it is fair to say that life is far from dull. We have much to be thankful for, and we have much to be praying for. If you are praying for us, please do not stop!