God Doesn’t Need Us

As I’ve read and skimmed through the multitude of articles, opinions and analyses of the events of the last couple of weeks, there has been much of it that has made me sad, some of it has made me glad, some of it has been very solidly written, some of it has been amazingly slanted.   

One of them talked about how to live with the tension and how to seek God in the tension.   Thank you Carissa.

The other one, and I apologize if I don’t even remember who wrote it, said one sentence that stuck with me……

God Doesn’t Need Us.

Think about that a minute.  God doesn’t need us to argue for Him.   

God Doesn’t Need Us.   

But He wants us.    He wants us to show His love to our neighbor.    He wants us to struggle with how to live the way He calls us to.   Not because we have to in order to be saved but as a show of gratitude for what He has done for us.

He wants us be His hands and feet – not because He can’t but because we need to.

He wants us to show love to those who aren’t like us – because He showed love to us and we aren’t like Him.

He wants us to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”

He wants us to wrestle with what that means when you think “that” is right and I think “this” is right.

He wants us to wrestle with how to love those we don’t agree with.

Not because He needs us.   That would be unbelievably presumptious to think that God needed us, that God can’t do it without us.

No, he wants us to do that because that’s His calling for us to live a life of love and gratitude.

Jesus lived and died the ultimate life of love.   

How are we going to show His love and our love to others today?  

He doesn’t need us to solve the world’s problems but He wants us to work with Him and join Him in redeeming the world and standing for what matters to Him.

It isn’t easy, but it’s easier than what Jesus did.


11 Years – But I Won’t Use “The” Word

11 years ago tonight, there was a crowd gathering at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids Michigan.

They were waiting for a plane to come in.   A plane that contained a family of 7.

5 kids and their parents.  2 of the children became United States citizens that morning, when they landed in Miami.

Two of the kids had never been on a plane before.

Had never been outside of Haiti before.

Had never been in an airport before.

Had never……..

The list goes on and on.

11 years ago tonight, my family came home.

As a family of 7.   The process of the adoption was over.

They were now Vanderwells and we were coming home together.

The process of adoption was over.   The process of becoming a family was beginning.

And it is a process.

11 years ago tonight, the Vanderwells came home as a family of 7.

But I won’t use “the word.”   What word?

“Gotcha”   As in, today is the day that I “gotcha” and brought you home.

Why won’t I use that word?  A couple of reasons:

1. It minimizes the things that an adopted child gives up on the day that they “come home.”   They leave the only country, language, climate and most likely “family” they have ever known – at least in terms of children who are adopted internationally.   By calling it “gotcha day” you are essentially saying those losses don’t matter.  But they do matter.   

2. It makes children sound like possessions.   I didn’t “get” my kids, I brought them into my family, not as possessions but as members of the family.  

So, Happy Anniversary, Abby and Isaac.   11 years ago tonight, our lives changed forever.   We’ve all been blessed. challenged, grown and seen God at work through the last 11 years.

Happy Anniversary to two of the five children God has blessed us with.

Tom (aka Dad)






Boko Haram

The Dominican Republic’s government’s persecution of Haitians


The Confederate Flag 

Civil War History

And then Ann Voskamp posts a question on Facebook,  “One thing you wish was different these days in church?”

In  8 hours, she’s had 884 comments.  

People, there is a LOT of bad stuff going on and a LOT of bad stuff being said.   

We can not be quiet.   We can not let our voices be still.   

As John Pavolvitz said,  “One side does not get to quiet the other.”


Transracial Adoptive Parents–Reluctant Revolutionaries?

Transracial adoptive parents are reluctant revolutionaries?


According to an article I read that was written by an African American man, yes, transracial adoptive parents are revolutionaries.


Because they are living what our country needs.

They are demonstrating, on a daily basis, what the country should be doing.

And what is that?

Making race “indifferent.”

Now I didn’t say ignoring race.   I didn’t say being colorblind.    I believe that colorblind is actually racist.

If you say you are colorblind, you are ignoring the racial make up of a person and saying that being Korean or Haitian or Colombian or Ugandan or African American is not important.   You’re saying that an important part of who someone is, their nationality, is not worth paying attention to.

This African American writer made a point that “colorblind” isn’t what our country needs.   What our country needs is for people to be “color indifferent.”

What does “color indifferent” mean?   It means that we acknowledge the differences, we don’t ignore the differences, but the differences don’t prevent everyone from being on equal footing.

In a family, the tall kid and the short kid get treated the same.

In a family, the skinny kid and the slightly overweight kid get treated the same.

In a family, the child with brown eyes and the child with blue eyes get treated the same.

In a family…….

You get the picture.   Physical differences don’t make a difference in how a family treats each member of the family.

And that’s where transracial adoptive parents are revolutionaries.  

Every day, transracial families are living a life of racial indifference.

Every day, transracial families are saying, we won’t ignore race, we won’t ignore color, we won’t ignore culture.

But we won’t let race impact the way we treat our family members.   We will continue to push and fight and embrace our entire family.

That’s a revolution.   That’s a change that will make the world a better place.  

Transracial Adoptive Families – reluctant revolutionaries.

Yeah, I think that might just be the ticket……


The Circles We Move In…….

Some of them are big.

Some of them are small.

Some of them are very enjoyable circles.    Circles of friendship, circles of good times and joy filled experiences.

Some of them are filled with family.

Some of them are very lonely.

Some of them raise more questions than answers.

Some of them involve 17 year olds having lung surgery and 8 year olds being hit by cars and killed.   Some of them involve people in your circle saying, “I can’t handle the pain any more” and attempting to make it stop.

Some of them involve times of doubt and anger.  

Some of them involve Boko Haram and ISIS.    Some of them involve military families who have paid the ultimate price defending against those evils.

Some of them involve people literally starving to death.    And children being abused – many times by someone they know and used to trust.   And Christians being beheaded on camera for their faith.

Some of them involve systems and institutions that are supposed to be helping that are actually making things worse – like the church, like orphanages, like adoption agencies, like short term missionaries, like the foster care system.

Some of them involve unspeakable acts of genocide, mutilation, bloodshed and  torture.    And it’s not “over there” because today’s communications bring it “right here” and inside our circle.

How do we justify the evil, horrible and tortuous things that happen in our circles?   Especially, how do we balance those with what it says in Romans 8:28 –

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Doesn’t that mean life is supposed to be rainbows and unicorns once we believe in God?

Far from it – John Pavlovitz says it better than I could – “http://johnpavlovitz.com/2015/05/29/why-everything-does-not-happen-for-a-reason/

“In our profound distress, this idea forces us to run down dark, twisted rabbit trails, looking for the specific part of The Greater Plan that this suffering all fits into……”

“This isn’t a Heavenly insurance policy paid with faith and exempting us from anything unpleasant, but the promise that if we choose to respond to all things from a place of love and goodness; that we, not necessarily our circumstances will be better for it…….”

“No I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe there is meaning in how we respond to all things that happen to us, even when they are not at all good things.”

John doesn’t have any easy answers for why, why this life isn’t a piece of cake.   But he makes a couple of very solid points:

  • We but not necessarily our circumstances will be better for it – if we respond the way God calls us to.
  • Learning and choosing to follow God and what that means and how you do it often brings the good out of the terrible and the difficult.

Why do some people seem to get to eat a nice piece of chocolate cake while others only get flour and salt?

I don’t know.

Why doesn’t God give everyone a nice of their very favorite type of cake for their “lot in life?”

I don’t know.

But I know this…….

God, through Paul, says more later on in Chapter 8:

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are conquerors.   That means we aren’t just sitting around eating cake, we’re in a battle.   None of the things in vs. 38 and vs. 39 will win and will separate us from the love of God.  

Why these things happen, that’s a mystery that we won’t be able to solve here on earth.   But the end result is our good – because if we believe in Jesus, then we will obtain the ultimate good – life with him.

Until the mystery is revealed, if it is, we wait, we suffer and struggle and we cling to the hope and the knowledge that God will not let go of us. 

No matter whether our cake is good or bitter or half baked.


More on the subject:

From my friend Shelley in Haiti – “”A woman stood outside my gate for the past week with a new infant and a toddler in tow. Day after day she waited and day after day I told her we didn’t have work. We don’t have work. Not enough work. Today she followed me for four blocks. It annoyed me. Can’t I just walk down the street without being harassed? After my appointment four blocks away, I went to leave. She was there- baby in arms, waiting. Hopeful. No work I said! Stop following me! She paused a second and then she just broke down and wept. She wept. She sobbed. Lord have mercy, I thought. I need to sell some more jewelry.” ~ Shelley Clay”