Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy

This journey through life is never boring......

Month: November 2014 (page 1 of 2)

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Lord,

This is a messed up world we’re living in.

It’s so messed up that if I told you all of the things that are wrong, we’d be here all night.    Anyway, you know all of the wrong things.

You know about disease, you know about evil, you know about violence, you know about corruption.    It seems like there’s a lot more of it this year than normal.

God, what’s up with that?   Why do things seem so bad right now?

What are you trying to teach us?   And why is it so hard for us to learn?

As those of us in America gather for Thanksgiving tomorrow, help us to be really truly thankful.    Thankful for what matters.

Thankful for the ability to love.

Thankful for the ability to care.

Thankful for the ability to make a difference.

Thankful for the opportunity to sit with someone who is hurting.

Thankful for brothers – even when they drive you nuts.

Thankful for sisters – even if they can occasionally go all DQ on you.

Thankful for parents.   For what they have taught, how they have lived and the difference they have made.  

Thankful for being able to look beyond.   Beyond ourselves and into the world around us – and to reach out and do something to make the world a better place for someone there.

Thankful for small steps forward.   Thankful for small and large signs of Your grace.

God, it’s hard to be thankful when so many things seem so bad right now.    Help us to be thankful for you and the fact that even though we don’t know the answers, we know the One who knows the answers.

Help us to be thankful for the things that really matter.   

And help us to bring those things that really matter to a world that is too focused on evil, too focused on the “things” and not enough on the people.

In your name,

Amen

Ferguson, Michael Brown and Now What?

Random thoughts this morning about what is going on and what it might mean……..

First, I don’t know any concrete details in terms of what happened or who did what in Ferguson.    So I’m not going to attempt to express opinions on any of the details on who did what, was it valid, was there a better outcome.   I don’t know.

But I do know that there is substantial evidence that throughout our country that there are significant differences between how people of color are treated compared to white people.

A white teenager wearing a hoodie with headphones in walks into a convenience store shortly before midnight.    No one thinks twice.

A black teenager wearing a hoodie with headphones in walks into a convenience store shortly before midnight.    The clerk puts his hand on the “emergency” button and the other patrons leave as quickly as possible. 

A white man is pulled over for speeding.   After review of registration, insurance and license, he’s given a ticket and sent on his way.

A black man is pulled over for speeding.   After a review of the same documents, the police officer asks the speeder to step out of the car and runs a variety of tests to determine potential alcohol content and examines the inside of the car in more detail.

Does this happen all of the time?   Absolutely not.    But what Ferguson does show is that this is an ongoing problem and it’s a problem that is probably more wide spread than those “in power” would like to admit.

So what does it all mean?    Let me throw a couple of ideas out there:

  • Parents need to have conversations with their children about the importance of treating everyone the same and not drawing conclusions based on race, based on color, based on the type of clothes someone is wearing.
  • Parents of black children, especially black boys, especially teenage black boys, have to have more detailed and unfair conversations with them.   Conversations with them about how they need to hold themselves to a higher standard.   Conversations about how people will draw conclusions about them based on how they dress – and they almost certainly won’t be positive conclusions.   Conversations about how a  black 14 year old with an airsoft gun will be perceived significantly differently if that 14 year old is white.
  • Churches need to be more awake and communicative about the message they send to their community.    Is it a message of inclusion no matter what color, what style of clothes or what music someone listens to?   Or is it a message of exclusivity  – if you aren’t white and you don’t drive a nice car, well………
  • The government – first, I want to say that I have the utmost respect for those who are police and keep our streets safe.     They have to make instant decisions and they put their lives on the line for us every day.   But I think it’s obvious that our government has some work to do yet on training and teaching their people how to make the right decisions and to do it in a more racially equal way.

I’ve read a number of reports that have said that white people who don’t have black friends feel that racism is not a problem.    White people who have black friends feel that racism is still an issue.    Black people feel that racism is still an issue.    In other words, if you don’t see it or experience it, then you don’t know it’s still there.    Not saying that is the fault of the white people who don’t have black friends (though it might be for some).   It’s just the way that it is rightMartin Luther King Jr. now.

And it’s not acceptable.   It shouldn’t be acceptable to the church, it shouldn’t be acceptable to the schools, it shouldn’t be acceptable to the government.

One other thought – why are people burning and looting and being violent in Ferguson?    I’m sure there are some of them who are doing it just to cause trouble.   But what about most of them?

It’s because they have lost faith in “their” government to keep them safe.   They have lost faith in “their” government to protect their “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”    They have lost faith in “their” government to protect “freedom” of speech.  

We need to make changes to restore their faith in our system and our country.

Because Ferguson is more than just the case of what happened to one police officer and one teenager.    Ferguson is the story of what is hidden under a lot of American life.

And what’s hidden underneath is not pretty.

Tom

Psalm 121 and Winston Churchill

Psalm 121:7- 8 say:  “God guards you from every evil he guards your very life.  He guards you when you leave and when you return,

he guards you now, he guards you always.”

But how do you square that with the evil that goes on in the world?

How do you balance what that says with what ISIS does?

How do you square what that says with genocide and germ warfare?

How do react to the evil in the world in light of Psalm 121:7 and 8?

There’s a big variation between the two.   On the one hand, God says He will guard you and keep you save.   Always.

On the other hand, there is much evil in this world…….

A couple of thoughts on that dissonance.

Winston Churchill said, referring to Russia, “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”    We just don’t know all of the facts, so Winston Churchillit’s not possible for us to truly grasp the inherent squabble between what God says and what we see on a daily basis.

I believe that many people (present company included at times) tend to assume that these type of Bible verses refer to “here on earth.”

God doesn’t promise that he will keep us from every evil here on earth.    But he does promise that he will guard our lives.  Does that mean he promises that everything on earth will be smooth?   Not a chance.

But our spiritual life, our glorified body and soul, those he will guard.   So, while evil is happening here, God is guarding us so that our survival, our making it to heaven, is not in doubt.

We know how the story ends.    We know that it has a happy ending (literally living happily ever after) but we don’t know what evil will sneak in and make life difficult for us in the mean time.

Rest in the fact that God will guard your life – now and forever.

Tom

Done What?

Psalm 118:24  “The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.”

Done what?

And why this very day?

Why did the Psalmist say, “this very day?”  Did something miraculous happen on that very day?

If you read the entire chapter, I don’t think you’ll find one particular event that is referred to by “it.”

Instead, I think you’ll find a challenge and a blessing.

A challenge – look to see what the Lord has done this very day.     On the day that you are reading this, look to see what God has done.2014-11-05 07.30.23

Tomorrow – look to see what God is doing.

Every day, look around you to see what God is up to.

Be aware of His blessings.   Be aware of the doors that He opens.   Be aware of the people He puts around you.

Look to see God in everything and everywhere.

And then you’ll find what the “it” is.   And every day “it” will be a little bit different.

And every day, for every person, “it” will be a little different.

Because the way God works in you and the way God works in me is different.

And the blessing – the Psalmist is calling us to rejoice in the ways that God is working.

When things are going well, rejoice.

When things are tougher, rejoice.

Rejoice that God is with you.   Rejoice that no matter what happens, you know who’s side you’re on.

Rejoice when you see the big things in life.   Rejoice when you see the small things in life.

Rejoice when you have the opportunity to encourage someone else.

Rejoice when someone else comes alongside you and lifts you up.

God has done it.   He’s done “it” today.   He’s going to do  “it” tomorrow.

Rejoice.

TJV

The Importance of Being

A little cutie I met at "Church on Halloween"

A little cutie I met at “Church on Halloween”

As I have journeyed through this last 6 months of trying to figure out what God had as #plannext for me and my skills and my passions and my desire to make a difference, I’ve learned a lot of things.

One of the things that I’ve learned is the importance of being.   No, that’s not an incomplete sentence.   It’s the importance of BEING.

Being what?   Being many things.

Being aware of God.   God doesn’t usually shout His plans from the mountain top (thank you Moses) or from the clouds or by means of a person visiting you at your tent.    But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t speak.    But we’re too often too busy to hear God.

Being able to step into the fog.   Fog?   The unknown of life.   The “I don’t know how this is going to end up but I feel strongly that God is calling me to do this, so here goes.   God uses many ways to help us see “just enough” of the path so that we can take the next step.   One of the ways that He has helped me step into the fog has been a group of very dissimilar but very like minded people on Facebook that was started by Jon Acuff (of Stuff Christians Like fame).   We’re called the Dreamers and the Builders – and every single one of us is stepping into the fog of life and convicted that we’re meant to do something big with that fog.   Even if it’s big in a small way (huh?)

Being able to see the small things as big things.    Investing in the lives of those around me.   Seeing the difference that small things can do to bring healing, to bring hope, to bring encouragement.

Being able to see the big picture.    There are things that I wasn’t able to see in prior situations in life, working for the orphanage, working in the banking world, that I have a different perspective on many things.    But those “things” are a topic for many other days.

Being here.   Being now.   Being the hands and feet of Jesus here and now.   Today.

Being able to dream.   Being able to say, “What if…..”    Being able to say, “God what do you want?”

Being able to write.   It’s invigorating.   It’s thought provoking.   It helps me be where I am.

Being.

Being with God.

Being able to sit in where God has put me and say, “Here’s where God has put me.  So here’s where I’ll be for Him.”

Thanks for being here with me.   God promises us that He has an amazing journey with an awe filled ending to it.

Tom

P.S. If you want to read about Church on Halloween where I met that little cutie in the picture, go to http://tomvanderwell.net/2014/11/i-went-to-church-on-halloween/

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