This Christmas letter is about going home! We all know, deep in our soul, without exception, death will knock on our door. We do not like to think about it, don’t plan for it, and rarely talk about it. Both of our parents have been gone for a long time. Neither of us has lost a sibling. But now death is at the door of our generation.

I lost a brother-in-law this year. We visited him monthly. We saw the hope for life turn to denial, to resignation, to acceptance, to a wish for the end. I was asked to lead his memorial service. I had known Chuck for forty years and suddenly realized I wished I knew him better. Still, what I did know about him rang true and genuine and authentic. I wished for more time. I was broken.

In September, Jan and I lost a very special friend. Donna was a nursing school friend, Jan’s roommate after graduation. Jan was with her when she gave her heart to Christ. She was Jan’s maid of honor. Donna married Ron who was a friend of mine. As a couple, we were close friends, almost soulmates, for forty-nine years. We attended their family events and they came to our weddings. We went long-distance hiking and cruises together. Donna spent time with us when Jan had her second stroke. She was a sister that I never had. After cerebral encephalitis struck her down, we visited and watched her decline. We never said goodbye. It hit us without warning. I cried.

Many have lost spouses, parents, children, tragic and shocking accidental deaths. I keep the memorial service bulletins that I attend. On average it is five funerals, four this year. In 2016 it was seven. Most of them were older. Many were anticipated. I have been disease and pain-free for my entire life. I can only now begin to appreciate how grateful I am for years of excellent health. This month I had a Lumbar Laminectomy, back surgery for spinal stenosis. Jan just had a total bilateral mastectomy for invasive duct breast cancer to be followed by chemo. Radiation may follow. We do not yet know. The prognosis for both of us is good. Medical issues, however, are now a major conversation. “I will tell you mine if you tell me yours!” We don’t even ask. We just start talking about the latest ache and pain.

Earlier this year I came home from surgery on my shoulder rotator cuff and laid low for several days, largely pain-free, but restricted, with my arm in a sling, I realized three weeks later that I had been feisty and difficult. Jan had been supportive, loving, never a complaint despite the chair I sat in was surrounded with discarded mail, used dishes, scattered food crumbs, an array of half-read books, an anathema in any other situation. I said to Jan, “I think I was slightly depressed.” Her response, “You think!” If I can’t help myself is this mild situation, what will I be like when the end of life arrives?

Jesus knew before he was born what death awaited him, yet he came to our world, not to live but to die… so we could live. He lived with purpose and gave hope to the hopeless. We want to live with the same sense of purpose and prepare ourselves to die…to live forever.

I think that is reason enough to truly enjoy and embrace this season. It is time to rejoice and be glad, to make merry, to worship, to pray, to greet, love and laugh, to celebrate with my friends and family, strangers and even enemies. It is a season of HOPE when the dark of night surrounds us. Every day is a gift… until we finally get home! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

– Lou

God being the Trinity

God being the Trinity

Christians talk about God being the Trinity, God-three-in-one. I feel that I am of that same construct. For example, most of my life, my mind determines what it is that I do, think, and am. My body responds and for the most part is obedient to my mind. There is an effort to find some transcendence, purpose, and eternal spiritual connection through faith and obedience. My soul has been nurtured and been given increasing emphasis as I have gotten older. However, through it all, the mind filters, directs, and fairly rationally, makes its way through life, managing these various dimensions of my life.

In two weeks, I will have rotator cuff surgery. In the meantime, I am having some rather serious leg cramps/tingling/achiness in both legs. This probably goes back to a disc injury experience 49 years ago. Suddenly, my body is telling my mind what it is I will and will not be doing. I am conscious that I was born to die and that time is sooner rather than later. It will not be long and my soul will be in the only relevant aspect of my personhood.

This is not to say that death is imminent. I have no life-threatening illness to my knowledge. I hope and pray to live to the age of my parents who both passed at the age of 86. I could easily be on this earth for another 20+ years. I write all of this to continually ask myself if I am using my time in the best possible way. How does this all relate to our business…

It starts with being financially conservative or taking a risk and moving forward. I have a financial planner who I meet with annually. He is always encouraging me to become more conservative in our financial investments. I have rejected that approach by arguing that time is short. I do not want to become risk adverse quietly retiring to the sidelines. God has given us protégé who want our business to grow and become more impactful. Last week, our executive met with four successful business people asking for their experience, wisdom, and connections to take our business to the next level. I have never been more excited, positive, and motivated to grow our business/ministry to the next lever.

For those of you to read, this I am so grateful for your participation and partnership to make this happen.


Always, Lou

Romeo Cultural Tour 2017

Romeo Cultural Tour 2017


There were six of us; Tom Sibley, Marlin Baker, Lou Haveman, Jerry Kaizer, Rod Osner, and Steve Dooley.  We are all retired, kinda, representing six different professions; juvenile court, probation, real estate, business, management, and air traffic controller.  We range in age from 58 to 75.  We departed on a Sunday, returning Wednesday afternoon, four days, drove close to 1,200 miles, and were still laughing.  Three drivers took turns driving a 18-year old Fleetwood Flair motorhome.  I wanted some back-seat time.  I was envious of how relaxed Rod was stretched out on the couch and the dramatic conversations often initiated by Marlin or was it Marlina? image3

ROMEO stands for Retired old Men Eating Out.  Every day somewhere in Grand Rapids a few of hard core members of ROMEO meet for coffee.  There are probably twenty plus ROMEOs but I only know about eight of them well.  I make it a point not to miss Monday mornings at Panera.  I share several magazines and the Wall Street Journal with a couple people and I always walk away, not always wiser but certainly inspired.  The rest of the week has to be better than the last hour with these clowns.  Not to appear over complementary nor sucking up to them, but I would not miss this group for anything.  Proud to be a ROMEO…most of the time!image2

Day One: The sun had not yet risen as I heard Jerry walk up our drive asking if we were planning on leaving on time.  At six fifteen we were on the road even though Tom got lost.  We were headed to Donegal, PA, about 45 miles east of Pittsburg.  We stopped at the Fowlerville for some breakfast at a Family restaurant, a recommendation by Jerry.

Mid-afternoon we were walking the streets of Lawrenceville, PA, an emerging renewed suburb of Pittsburgh formally looking for a place to eat.  We walked a half a mile one way passed several restaurants thinking there had to be a better place just up the road.  Then, back to the RV and another quarter miles in the other direction.  Several of us wanted to stop at one of the newest and most popular places, a local ice cream shop but that did not happen, a mistake we would not repeat.

Twelve hours from our early morning departure we walked into Brady’s Restaurant.  It was a perfect meal.  An hour later we were at Day’s Inn where five of us slept in the hotel and I stayed in the RV.  Four of us spent time at the pool.  The rain dumped on us all night.

Day Two:  We were on the road at 8;00 A.M. driving to Stoystown, the location of Flight 93 National Memorial.  This is a thousand-acre site.  It truly captures the quiet yet powerful and courageous characters that brought that flight down before it could do damage to our nation’s capital.  The Boeing 757 200 passenger airplane disappear into a million pieces as it hit the ground nose first, upside down, at 563 miles per hour creating a 20-foot crater, vaporizing all 44 persons on board.  It was a powerful two hours listening to the life stories of people who lived in the area and are still engaged.  Nothing could prepare us for listening to the actual recorded phone calls made by several of the passengers to their loved ones knowing they were in the last minutes of their lives.  This is living history.  It happened on our watch. Here are a several things we discovered:image1

  • Local people are taking “ownership” of this memorial given it happened in their community.  This site is a part of the National Park System.
  • The crash site was an abandoned surface coal mine.
  • The delay of departure (25 minutes) of this flight out of Newark gave the passengers (Thirteen people made a total of 37 phone call) an opportunity to know this was part of a larger hijacking, hence they decided by vote to attack the hijackers and spoil their mission.  The crash site is only 18 minutes flying time from Washington D.C.
  • This was the largest investigation ever by the FBI.
  • Forty groves of local tree varieties of forty trees each are planted representing the forty-innocent people killed.
  • It was worth the trip to just experience this.

At one thirty we arrived in Ohiopyle/Mill Run, visiting Falling Water, a classic of Frank Lloyd Wright, constructed over the Bear Run River falls.   It once was nominated as one of the wonders of the world.  This home was built in 1935 for the Kaufman family.  It only cost $155,000 in the days when people would work at 25 cents per hour.  It now is owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.  The American Institute of Architecture stated “Best all-time work of American architecture.” image7

 It reminded me of The Rock in Wisconsin where nature embraces and incorporates itself into the structure both inside and outside the home.  I think I was impressed as much by the footpaths surrounded by Mountain Laurel than the home itself, as impressive as it was.  I would not trade it for the home we live in today.

Day Three:  Although Steve has directed thousands of flights to land safely in some of the largest airports, all we could do was circle around.  We were not lost but we could not find our destination in Pittsburgh.  Too late, we discovered this is not uncommon.  Jerry told us about his wife’s father when he moved his family to Pittsburgh he would set up sales appointments and then return home in the evening reporting he was unable to find even one appointment.  After driving past several potential parking areas, none of which would accommodate an RV, a vehicle stopped in front of us. A man approached and asked if he could help.  He told us to follow him.  Six blocks later, we were parked in his lot paying $28.00 for all day parking.  He then proceeded to give us directions on using the subway and how to get out of town.  We do not know his name but he gave a great name to the people of Pittsburg.

The city center is at the confluence of the mighty Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers.  It is here the Ohio River begins.  The city has 446 bridges within its borders.  It is easier to build a bridge than to build a road over the hills and ridges of the terrain.  Our first president, George Washington, dreamed that the forks of the Ohio River would connect to the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay.  Canals, railroads, and the access to coal and coke were the driving forces for early development.  Today, the region is driven by history, tourism, and the beautiful forests and wilderness attractions.

We had lunch at Grill 36 owned by Jerome Bettis, a star Pittsburgh Steelers star called The Bus because of his size and effectiveness on the field in the shadow of Heinz Field.  Then Eugene, the manager, came out and talked to us about him and sports in Pittsburgh.  His directions to our next stop were spot on. We never did stop eating this entire trip.  image8

We discovered the subway (tunnel under the Allegany and above the Monongahela) was free for those over 65 as was the Duquesne Incline, a rail cable car that rises 400 feet to Mt. Washington escarpment, formally called Coal Hill.  On the ridge, we met Gino.  Born and raised, lived, and now retired, presently doing his daily walks about, he gave us detailed sketches of life during Pittsburgh’s glory days of steel, smog, smell, and smoky days to the green city it is today.   Walking about overlooking the city from the escarpment, Tom and I spotted a Dairy Queen.  We did not miss this opportunity.

We ended our time in the city with a ride on the Duck.  It drives, floats, and is fully narrated.  Rod and Lou took their turns at the wheel.  We departed and returned to historical Station Square.  I learned and forgot more about the city in that hour than I have in a long time.  Here are a couple highlights. image5image6






  • When the British cut off the supply of goods in the War of 1812, the nation turned to Pittsburgh which became a center for manufacturing of iron, brass, tin, and glass.
  • Pittsburgh became a railroad hub in the mid 1800s.
  • Some of the nation’s first skyscrapers were built in Pittsburgh
  • Pittsburgh has made one of the most significant transitions in our nation’s history from contaminated waterways and smog filled air to a green city.

We wrapped up the trip with a quick stop at Cabela’s in Dundee.  As we entered Michigan again we spent a good hour reflecting on what it all meant from the tragedy of Flight 93, great architecture, history, and the terrific people we met.  Steve perhaps said it best.  It is not a perfect quote but it is what I heard.  “We think we control our plans, but in the end, God directs it all!”  Our only regret was we did not have time enough to enjoy it all.  However, discussion is already beginning for our 2018 ROMEO Cultural tour.  Special thanks to Marlin for the fine pictures.  Who is this guy anyway?  LJHimage4

Heading South on the North Country Trail

Heading South on the North Country Trail

Petoskey, Michigan…Heading South on the North Country Trail

May 26-27, 2017

Outside of hiking the streets of Grand Rapids, it has been a good six months since being on the trail. I couldn’t believe how good it felt to be hiking over Memorial Day. I am also realizing that each hike brings increasing pain in my legs, hip, and back. So far, the joy is out weighing the discomfort.

When I think about what I enjoy the most I believe it is the quietness. I have come to realize solitude is time with God. This can be found in many places. My cousin, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church, found it in a chair facing a wall. I find it in the alone-ness of hiking in city streets, along train tracks, on a country road, or designated wilderness areas.

Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness. Moses spent forty years. Adam and Eve spent days, maybe eons of time, walking the garden of creation with the Lord. Sometimes the Lord breaks though in an instant, yet, for me it is a quest and process. This weekend there was no insight but rather an affirmation of living in the present with great fellowship of family and friends and the sweetness of knowing the goodness of life.

Suddenly there was a sign and side trail. It took me in a big circle on a knoll adjacent to North Central Michigan College heavily wooded. Every fifty yards there was a sign post and a short description of the life of the Russian Mennonite immigrant Seibert family from the early 1800. They came seeking freedom of worship and found hardship, death, and a home. What remains are a few stones indicating where a two story home once stood overlooking Little Traverse Bay and an exposed dug out area where they once rolled huge logs down the hill side for lumber to be sold. They came, lived, gave birth to seven children, now dispersed, and the history is soon forgotten. As I walked further, the trail almost disappeared. A wise man once wrote, “There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and find enjoyment in his toil.”

May that also be your experience this week.


Another side of St. Patrick’s Day

Another side of St. Patrick’s Day

This past Friday, March 17, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with parades, green everything, and beer. Here is another side to this holiday.

He was a human trafficking victim in the 5th century, who became a missionary to the people and land (Ireland) where he was a slave.

Let me share a well-known prayer by St. Patrick, and customize it to a BAM related prayer: (the original is in bold and italics)

Christ with me, as I do business for Him and people

Christ before me, as I plan my business

Christ behind me, as I review my business

Christ in me; my guiding light in business

Christ beneath me; He is the foundation

Christ above me, He is the owner of my business

Christ on my right, Christ on my left, He is the Lord of the marketplace

Christ when I lie down, and rest from my work

Christ when I sit down, in my office chair

Christ when I arise, enthusiastic or weary

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, and my business

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, and my business

Christ in every eye that sees me, my staff, customers, suppliers, and competitors

Christ in every ear that hears me speak about my products and services

Special thanks to Mats Tunehag, a friend and champion of Business As Mission (BAM), who put this together.