HEINEN HAPPENINGS – July 2019

Friends, I apologize for not writing many recent updates.  My explanation will be clarified below.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! 

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits… (Psalm 103:1–2)

I want to start this update by thanking our Lord for the many blessings He has poured out upon our family!

Rebekah is really enjoying the internship for her Masters of Social Work, and is powering her way through some difficult, but rewarding final classes.  The place where she works would love to hire her upon completion, as her coworkers and clients adore her and appreciate her hard and competent work.  She is in a relationship with Tim, a young man who deeply loves Jesus.

Victoria finished her senior year at Arkansas Tech University, which included her final choir concerts and events.  She did a great job with her senior vocal recital.  This fall, she will complete her student teaching at a school in a nearby community as her Vocal Music Education program lasts 4 1/2 semesters.  She is in a relationship with Noah, a fine young man she met on the worship team at their church.

Maria graduated from Russellville High School, never earning anything but A’s her entire school career.  She also earned many scholarships that will fully pay for her education at Arkansas Tech University, which she begins in the fall.  She tearfully finished her final choir concerts and play performances at RHS, including choir trips to Washington D.C. and Carnegie Hall in New York City.

We are SO thankful to God for how he has blessed our girls!  Please pray they continue to fall in love with Jesus more every day.

66020725_849698268720111_4780117949828562944_n

Leah continues to exhibit her love for her Savior and her incredible faith in Him, in spite of her many physical challenges.  She is home-bound except for doctor appointments and choir concerts and play performances as she is able.  Please pray for God to bless her with His healing and sustaining grace.

I am blessed with a great job as hospice chaplain.  I am part of an incredible team that serves equally incredible patients and their families.  I also am thankful to shepherd a fine Cumberland Presbyterian congregation with a group of people who love Jesus and continually love our family.

church fall

I am asking prayer for myself this update, as I too am battling physical challenges.  I resigned from my denominational district position due to decline in my health.  I really loved serving our wonderful district family!  For years I struggled with non-diabetic neuropathy, which numbed my feet.  It is now spreading to my ankles, lower legs, and hands.  One of the reasons I do not do monthly updates is because computer work is more difficult with my non-cooperative fingers.  My main concern is that due to my numb feet and legs, I am now experiencing loss of balance and muscle failure that prevents me from driving.  I cannot drive when my feet cannot feel the pedals and when my feet and ankles lose control.  If I cannot drive, I cannot work or take care of my family.  Please pray for me!

We so love and appreciate our many friends who faithfully pray for us and encourage us in a multitude of ways.  Please contact us with your own prayer needs and praises.  May God bless you with His presence and peace!

Brian

Brian Heinen, 802 East 23rd Street, Russellville, Arkansas, 72802
479-886-0765    brheinen1@gmail.com
Follow my journey on Facebook and Twitter.

Heinen Happenings – December 2018

Wow look at Mariah

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.   Isaiah 9:2 ESV

He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.   Isaiah 25:8 ESV

Jesus, the Light of the World, has come! Even the deepest darkness of death itself is swallowed up by His glorious light. Whatever darkness you find yourself in right now, turn to the Light.

On this First Sunday in Advent, I hope these words encourage you to seek Jesus in a fresh way this holiday season.

It has been a long time since I last shared an update about our family.  Here is a summary of what has happened:

–Rebekah continues to work as an intern at a local agency for her M.S.W. degree.  The employees and the clients love her!  She recently traveled to Iowa for a friend’s wedding and had a great time reconnecting with friends.  She is very active in our church teaching, singing, and writing/directing the Christmas program.  Please pray for her as she struggles with thyroid/immune system issues.

SUp it's bEkah

–Today, Victoria had her final Feast of Carols concert with the Arkansas Tech University Choir.  She was even able to conduct “Carol of the Bells”!  She also is very involved in her church serving on the worship team and leading a girl’s small group.  Please pray for her as she finishes up her senior year and begins her internship in vocal music education.

rocksssss

–Maria is looking forward to a spring choir trip where the RHS choir will travel to New York to participate in a festival at Carnegie Hall.  She also has an upcoming Christmas concert.  Her one-act play did very well in a recent competition.  She was honored to write and direct the drama for our community Veteran’s Day celebration.  She also is enjoying serving at our church.  Please pray for her to finish her high school experience strong.

Mariah

Please pray for all of our girls to continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ!

–Leah continues to struggle with various health issues, but remains the heart and soul of our family.  Her faith is incredibly strong even though she faces daily challenges.  Her beloved brother died recently.  Pray for her to experience the Shalom (peace, completeness) of Jesus Christ!

–I am very busy working three part-time jobs.  I love being a chaplain with Arkansas Hospice.  I work with an awesome team and together we serve incredible clients and their families.  I also work as an administrative assistant with my denomination’s district office.  Our wonderful district superintendent is moving on after many years of faithful service, so my employment at the district may change soon.  I also am the interim pastor at a Cumberland Presbyterian Church in nearby Appleton, Arkansas.  We could not ask for a more loving and encouraging church family.  While I am not ordained in the CPC denomination, the people have embraced me as their “pastor.”  They even put my name on their sign!  Please pray for me to have the health and energy to do all I do for the glory of my Savior!

We so love and appreciate our many friends who faithfully pray for us and encourage us in a multitude of ways.  I am so sorry that with my busy schedule and exhausted body, I have not kept in touch.  May God bless you with His presence and peace!

Brian

church fall

Brian Heinen 802 East 23rd Street, Russellville, Arkansas, 72802
479-886-0765 brheinen1@gmail.com
Follow my journey on Facebook and Twitter.

HEINEN HAPPENINGS – August 2018

Email newsletter of the Heinen family: Brian, Leah, Rebekah, Victoria and Maria

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3-5 ESV)

We pray for our friends and neighbors!  How can we pray for you?  Send your requests to my email address listed below.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits… Ps 103:1-2

We have much to bless God for…

–Leah had a good report from the doctor, showing no further damage to her kidneys.  Her diabetes is under control.  She recently had to go through some tests for her heart, which all turned out well.  She has a stress test this week.  Please pray for her struggle with pain and exhaustion.

–Rebekah starts her MSW internship next week.  Please pray for her health, especially her hypothyroidism.

–Victoria continues to be involved in various leadership positions in her church.  She loves the girls in her small group!  She starts her senior year in college next week.

–Maria had a great start to her senior year in high school.  She is involved in the small group Victoria leads and also in the church where Brian is preaching.

–Brian is enjoying his part-time opportunities with hospice, with his denominational district, and with the small church where he is interim pastor.  It is amazing how many wonderful opportunities to share the love and truth of Jesus arise.  Please pray for his neuropathy in his hands and feet to be healed, as well as the wound on his foot, which has been an issue for many months.

–While we are thankful for the opportunities we have to bless our neighbors, we feel that God brought us to this neighborhood for a purpose.  Pray that we will have the time, health, energy, resources, and opportunities to reach these special people with the mercy and grace of our Savior.

The entire family has been blessed by the encouragement, generosity, and prayers of so many friends.  Y’all have been conduits of God’s amazing grace to our lives.  We love you and appreciate you!

–The church, the Appleton Cumberland Presbyterian Church, is very responsive to the ministry of Jesus Christ that is taking place.  While the number of people in the congregation is very small in number, the hearts of the people are deeply devoted to Jesus.  Rebekah and Maria are making a real difference among the children who attend.

church 3

Brian Heinen 802 East 23rd Street, Russellville, Arkansas, 72802
479-886-0765 brheinen1@gmail.com
Follow my journey on Facebook and Twitter.

Being Poor

When you are poor, you feel incompetent.  You are told to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but if you were capable of that, how did you end up poor?  You feel incredibly weak as you see so many others so strong and successful.

You feel incapable.  You feel like you can’t do what millions around you are already doing – being successful.

You feel inferior.  Those millions of successful people who surround you are living the American Dream.  Many of those millions believe that the American Dream is real.  Their favorite athletes and entertainment stars remind them daily that everyone can live the Dream – just believe in yourself enough and you can do and be anything!  The question then becomes, what is wrong with you if you can’t live the Dream?

You feel unlovable. People you thought were friends disappear.  Many are ashamed of you and at times are ashamed to be with you.  When people do talk to you, they treat you as a charity case to be pitied rather than a friend to be valued.  (See “you feel inferior.”)  Thank the Lord for the true friends who sometimes appear out of nowhere to truly be a support.  It is surprising to see friends fall away, but it is even more surprising to see true friends rise up.

You feel like you have no choice.  After all, beggars can’t be choosers.  When people are in the position of offering you help, there is often a sense of superiority that arises on their part.  And to get their help, you better listen and do everything they say or help in the future may be out of the question.  You must accept any job, any place to live, any schedule forced on you, or you look very ungrateful.

You feel blamed.  Just as most in America hold to some form of the American Dream, most Christians have a little “prosperity doctrine” in them.  In other words, people wonder what you must have done to cut off God’s blessing from your life.  Don’t faithful children experience the Father’s love and provision?  What did you do?

You feel like you must share your story with anyone who asks.  You share your story of failure constantly as you appeal to churches and agencies for help.  Everyone has questions to ask and forms to fill out.  Many times, you have to provide proof of income (a record of your failure on paper for all to see) to get a loaf of bread.  Even if you don’t want to ask for help, you are forced to.  You lose all privacy and dignity.

You lose all respect and integrity.  As you share your story, people are automatically suspicious of you.  The assumption is from the beginning, you are trying to take advantage of their generosity.

You feel dumb.  Those offering help sometimes treat you this way, acting like they need to school you in all kinds of matters, mostly unrelated to why you are poor.  Everyone you talk to feels like they have the right to offer you advice (and you better listen!).  You feel like you always have to listen to those who are in a position to offer you help. And you quickly learn that there are always strings attached to gifts.  There truly is no such thing as a free lunch.

In summary, when you are poor, you feel inhuman.  Subhuman.  Like you are a different species.  There is nothing so dehumanizing as being poor – other than being extremely rich.

When you don’t feel human anymore, you feel isolated from humans. You become utterly desperate and do anything to survive. You start acting like the animal you are.  You don’t enjoy what humans enjoy.  Sunsets don’t take your breath away because you constantly feel like you’ve been socked in the gut and are unable to breathe​. Music doesn’t lift your soul to another plane.  Food loses its flavor.  Laughter doesn’t come naturally.

I have one request as you read  this: as you help the poor out of the goodness of your heart because our Father reached out and helped you when you didn’t deserve it, please do this one simple thing – treat those you are loving as fellow human beings made in the image of God, just like you.

Valuing Life – A Pastor’s Perspective

I have always valued life – or so I thought.  I remember from my teen years on how I believed the Bible when it said that I was made in the image and likeness of God.  I was thankful that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” by my heavenly Father and that He had “formed and covered me in my mother’s womb.”  I worked for a time at a ministry in Texas called “Last Days Ministries,” which had a branch of the ministry called “Americans Against Abortion.”   I served in the print shop there, and one of the most popular tracts that we printed was called, “Children – Things We Throw Away.”  Later, when I became a pastor, I faithfully ordered bulletin inserts for “Sanctity of Life Sunday” and preached how as God is the giver of life, He alone decides when our lives should end.  I was a hospital and nursing home chaplain and served on the ethics committee of our local hospital, and often had to help the sick and suffering see that even their lives had great value and that to end their lives prematurely would be a tragedy.  Yet, none of this prepared me for that trip to my wife’s OB-GYN.

We were expecting our second child.  Our Rebekah Hope was 2 at the time, and we had waited 5 years for her to be born.  We went to our 20 week appointment and looked forward to seeing our little one on the ultrasound.  As the nurse midwife viewed the screen, I noticed that she didn’t respond to my wife’s jokes and that her face turned very pale.  She excused herself and ran out of the room.  A few minutes later, she returned with the doctor, an immigrant from Czechoslovakia who was always smiling and pleasant.  He, too, was serious and silent – until he worked up the courage to tell us the news.  They couldn’t find any kidneys in our baby.  As such, the amniotic fluid would not be replenished once it was used up.  Without amniotic fluid, the lungs wouldn’t develop, as the lungs are strengthened when the baby in the womb breathes that life-sustaining liquid in and breathes it out.  He immediately set up an appointment for us at the Ohio State Medical Center.

On our first appointment, we met with two doctors who both assumed we were coming in to set up a time to abort.  They were shocked to hear my wife, Leah, explain that she believed that the same God who gave her baby life could heal her baby, but that even if he didn’t, it was not her right to end a life that He had given.  They explained to her that the baby would probably be carried close to full term but would die soon after birth and that each time she felt the baby kick, she would be reminded that she was carrying a baby with a death sentence.  “Why go through the heartache?” they asked her.  “Why risk your own health?  Why not end it now and try again?”  They introduced us to a geneticist who would “test” fetuses in future pregnancies and could tell us when to abort until we could get one that was healthy.  My wife stood firm.  Over what seemed to be never-ending visits to many different doctors, the professionals realized that they couldn’t change my wife’s mind.  Her courage amazed me.  Her faith humbled me.  We soon became a “teaching” case because of this rare disease.  I looked forward to the hours of ultrasounds, realizing that seeing my daughter on the screen might be the only chance for me to get to know her.

Our little Christina Joy lived one hour after the delivery.  She peacefully stopped breathing in our arms not long after we heard the hospital sound system play the bells that celebrated the birth of a child.  We put her tiny casket in the trunk of our car and drove her ourselves to Wisconsin, where she was buried next to my own brother, who had also died in infancy.  Not knowing if we would be able to have more children, God has since blessed us with Victoria Grace and Maria Faith.  O, how I value their precious lives!  And how I value the courage of people like my wife, Leah, who have the faith and strength to live out their convictions and who stand up and let their voices be heard.

 

Compassion Fatigue

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

I first came upon the idea of “compassion fatigue” when I was working at a rescue mission.  Many times, those who begin serving the poor, marginalized, and wounded because of a true desire to help, after a time become cynical, suspicious, and hardened.  Sometimes dealing with difficult situations involves dealing with difficult people.  Not all those you deal with are difficult, but there are enough out there to make even the most caring grow cold.  Trying to help those truly needy means that others will take advantage of you.  It is easy to justify this “fatigue.”  After all, aren’t we told not to cast our “pearls before swine”?  Aren’t we to be “wise stewards” of our Lord’s resources?

The late Keith Green reminded us that the only way to never be taken advantage of is to never help anyone at all.  Daily, I try to ask the Lord to help my heart stay soft as I deal with people, or I fear I, too, could develop “compassion fatigue.”  And as I pray for my own heart, I am reminded that my compassionate Lord never grows tired of me.

I don’t deserve God’s grace.  When I ask for His help, it is sometimes because I got into trouble because of things I did wrong.  Maybe I didn’t act wisely.  Perhaps I made a serious mistake.  Possibly I am suffering because I sinned against the very God I am asking for rescue.  Yet He hears my cry and redeems.  I don’t receive His aid because I deserve it.  I receive it because He is longsuffering, good, kind, and merciful.

Is it a good (or even spiritual) thing to refuse to help people because they have proven they are not worthy of help?  I can hear the thoughts of some as they read these words.  “We need to be careful to give people what they need, not just what they want or are asking for.”  “If I give this person money, they will spend it on drugs.”  “Maybe this person needs to suffer the consequences of their poor choices so that they learn a lesson.”  These things can be true, and remind us that we need to help wisely.  We need to help them in a way that truly helps them.  Yet, we need to help them – not give up because we may possibly be taken advantage of.

There is even another level to this.  Let’s say that someone is trying to take advantage of you.  Let’s say they will spend what you give them on drugs.  Maybe they are hopelessly addicted because of poor choices and sin.  Do we then not help them?  Do we let them starve?

What if our judgment about them is wrong?  What if like Job’s friends, we see their suffering through the lens of our own faulty experience?  What if they are actually suffering because they are more righteous than we are?

As a pastor, I observed this problem in the church.  Often those who are needy are “put up with” impatiently by the people of God.  Sometimes needy people are helped for a time, but when they don’t experience “instant sanctification” those who are helping grow weary.  When helpers grow weary it is easy to grow distant.  They don’t make phone calls as often to check up on their “friend.”  After a while, the phone calls stop as they focus instead on people and projects that yield quicker results.  We are rightly told to focus on our strengths and not just our weaknesses if we are to accomplish more for God.  Doesn’t this also mean that we should focus on people experiencing success rather than failure?  After all, needy people drain us and take up all our time, and when we share their stories during testimony time or in our latest newsletter, it is not very impressive.  So, we ignore and then forget those who are needy.  And they silently stop attending our churches, and no one even notices.

Similarly, lately I have been contacted by pastors who were in the licensing/ordination process in various denominations.  Because they were dealing with personal or church-related problems, or even when they were faithful but were not experiencing impressive results, their mentors and leaders shifted focus to those charismatic, type-A pastors who were seen as being quite successful.  My now ex-pastor friends stopped receiving phone calls from their mentors.  They faded into the woodwork and seemingly disappeared.  And no one in their denomination/association even noticed them disappear.

I often fail God.  I often live Romans 7: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”  And what does God do?  Every morning, after I failed the day previously, He reminds me of Romans 8: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Why does He do this?  It is because Lamentations is true: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  Should I not extend this same undeserved compassion that I received from God to others?

 

Thoughts About My Prayer Life

Many of you know that the past 18 months have been a bit challenging for me, as I lost the calling/career that I loved for 30 years.  In addition, I have been unsuccessful in trying to find new employment.  I spend most of my time looking for work.  When I am not seeking a job, I pray.  That pretty much summarizes my life right now.

My prayer life has gone through a few changes these past months.  Here are a few things I observed:

  1. Prayer is truly a conversation. In fact, it is the conversational part of the most important relationship I have.
  2. I don’t ask for much anymore. I still ask, but most of the time is just spent in conversation.
  3. I pray a lot more, but I say a lot less. I spend most of the time listening.
  4. When I do talk, I mostly pray Scripture. Most of the words I use now are not very original.
  5. When I am not praying Scripture, if I am talking, I normally ask questions.
  6. While I ask a lot of questions, God does not give me many answers.
  7. When Jesus does give a response to my questions, He normally answers with another question. As I read the gospels, this is what He often did.  It is amazing how often Jesus does not answer people’s questions, but instead answers with a question of His own.  Sometimes He just changes the subject to talk about what is really important.

I am not sure what this says about my prayer life, but it reminds me that Jesus values the health of my soul more than the things I normally ask for.