Author Archives: Tom Vanderwell

About Tom Vanderwell

Married my high school sweetheart over 35 years ago. She still is my sweetheart and I'm blessed by that. A career in banking, a career in fundraising for an orphanage in Haiti, 5 kids, health issues, a lot of curves that I wasn't expecting. Throughout it all, I can say God is good and life is never boring.

Circling the Drain – 6 yrs later

I really wish I didn’t have to write this.

But I do, probably even more so than when I wrote the original post 6 years ago.

There is so much stuff going on. Voting lawsuits, countersuits, allegations of this and that and it just keeps going on and on. And then there are bouts of international saber rattling, let alone some serious cyber rattling that seems to have many people in Washington quite concerned while many others seem more inclined to quote Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind and say, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a…….”

The list could go on and on and on.

And as it does, we keep circling the drain. Some are trying to make the drain work faster, clear out the mud, make the drain bigger so more water and whatever else can flow down, never to be seen again. Rather than be seen, they will provide water and more for the farmlands and parks and gardens that exist on the other side of the drain pipe. It turns what could have been a big problem into a small problem and then something good.

Others are taking sticks and boxes and cups and anything else – even if it is totally inappropriate for keeping water out of a drain and trying to use that. Our goal is to open up a drain hole and they are trying to plug it just as quickly as we are trying to open it up.

You would think, hope, see evidence of that by now we’d see evidence of that change. But no, things are sort of like my Mom said her Mom (or my Dad’s) Mom said, “Well, that was as clear as mud.” Translation – no matter what you mean, it isn’t coming out to meet the good that God expects.

God doesn’t expect us to walk and live in the mud of a sin filled life. But he does expect us to do what we can to get out of that mud and part of the getting out is to follow him and if we can’t get out of the mud on our own, that’s okay – he will send his people to help.

So, Inspite of the mud that is circling toward the drain and probably going to wash us down the drain, never to be heard of again, God says, “Don’t worry. Don’t worry about who is President, don’t worry about who wins the Georgia run off election, don’t worry about whether the drain wall will hold. I’ve got this. Believe in me and go do what you can to help. You take it part of the way and lean on me and I’ll take you all home.”

And that’s the meaning of a REAL Christmas Party……

TV

The Poor

Proverbs 17:5 “Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker;”

Especially during these times of CoVid….

Mock? really?

Really?  Does God think that we might mock the poor?   Obviously He does, otherwise He would not have put this in the Bible.

But let’s think a little bit about what “mock” might mean:

Obviously, it means the typical meaning – to make fun of – to ridicule.

  • “Hah, you’re driving a 1999 Ford Escort because that’s all you can afford?” 
  • “You see that guy sitting over in the corner in the library?   He sits there to stay warm because it’s the only place he has!”

But what about a couple of other variations on what “mock” might mean?

  • Soup Kitchen by ssa.govDisrespect – volunteering at a soup kitchen and making fun of the way a homeless person smells?
  • Disrespect – donating clothes or other things that are dirty, worn and deserving of the trash but you give them to a third world mission “because it’s better than they have.”
  • Disrespect – being on a short term mission trip and wearing matching t-shirts that say,  “Bringing Jesus to __________.”   There are very few places that would take short term mission trips that haven’t already heard of Jesus.   But that kind of an attitude doesn’t show Jesus.
  • Disrespect – taking pictures of the poor, the downtrodden, the ill and injured without asking them first.
  • Disrespect –  sharing pictures of the sick, the poor, the malnourished in ways that rob them of dignity or is used only to manipulate potential donors and not done with dignity.

And what about mocking by being quiet?

  • Being quiet when you hear allegations of abuse.
  • Being quiet when justice doesn’t prevail.
  • Being quiet when you see evidence of resources that are supposed to go toward the poor that are going elsewhere?

I believe it is also possible to mock the poor by being one-sided:

  • Tell the stories of the poor, the poverty, the illness – without describing the inner courage and inner beauty that you see.
  • 2012-08-04 17.44.06Show the pictures of the run down huts and the tar paper shacks without also sharing the natural beauty that God has  put around those who are suffering and poor.
  • Behaving and working and treating the poor like they know less than we do.   Just because we were born in the First World doesn’t mean that we have it right.   Respect the culture, respect their dignity and work with them.    That means that you don’t do things that will damage their economy – actually you structure your support to help their economy.

At first glance, “mock the poor” seems very easy to avoid.   But it’s not actually so easy.    There are a lot of intricacies in how we interact with the poor.    Those intricacies make it tricky.

We all need to be aware of what we say, the message we send with our words and with our actions and how it reflects on our God.

And how it reflects on us.

We all, especially the poor, deserve better.

Tom

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A Clarification–Black Lives Matter

I have to admit that the first time I heard the phrase, Black Lives Matter, my internal reaction was, “Yeah, but why are they protesting about this?”  I didn’t get the nuanced differences between what different races and even what different families thought about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Wait, is it really a movement?  Or is it more of a protest point?  Or just a kind of talking point/rally cry that will get more people involved? 

Are there really people out there who think that Black Lives Matter is a slam against white lives?   As in it’s a zero sum game?  Huh? A zero sum game is a game where the winner takes home everything and the loser gets nothing?  Like  ‘The Survivor show – you know the original one where they drop 20 people somewhere in the wild and the one who survives the entire time wins $1,000,000?  Does #2 get $500,000?  I don’t think so.   I’m sure they win more than number 20, but no where near what the winner does.

Life is not a zero sum game.  If Black Lives Matter was a zero sum “game,” that would mean that for a black life to matter more, a white life would need to matter less.

Ah…. nope!   God didn’t set the world up that way.  He didn’t set things up so that if one people wins, then another one loses.  God set things up so that all can be blessed and there is room at his table for anyone who believes He is their God and their Savior.

So, Black Lives Matter is not an effort to make white lives matter less.  It doesn’t have to be that way.   It’s possible for a black life to matter more and the white lives still matter too.  We can be equal, but we aren’t.

And God says that’s wrong:

“It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open.”  Acts 10::34-35 (The Message)

God says that all races and ethnicities are supposed to be equal.   When the Black Lives Matter “movement” came out, many white people countered with the saying,  “ALL lives matter.”

It’s like we were trying to play a game of “one better” with our neighbors and those we meet who aren’t caucasian like I am.   “Oh, well you’re saying that Black Lives Matter, huh?”   Just to show you that I’m a “bigger” man than you are, take this as our entry into the “Slogan of the Month” Club…..

“All Lives Matter!”   Ha! We have successfully put the people of color back in their nice little colored box and we can go on again living our white lives………

Not so fast.  If you wanted me to take you on a walk through history, I can show you very simply many stories in time where it is not true that all lives matter. I took a history class in college (I don’t remember a lot of the details – it’s been a few years) that was on Medieval European History.   It was frankly disgusting at how little lives matter there – especially lives that were not white.

When white people are co-opting the saying, “Black Lives Matter” they are, by saying, “All Lives Matter” saying that those who believe in the BLM statement are wrong.   Black Lives and Chinese Lives and Indian Lives and Canadian Lives and French Lives and American Lives and…….. all matter equally.  If that were true, then……

But we all know it’s not true. 

All Lives Don’t Matter Equally.

The Black Lives Matter movement is trying to bring attention to the fact that Black Lives are not treated like they are equal and they matter.  Want some examples?

Breanna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown……

Here’s a list of the fatal police shootings from January 1, 2015 to this week that was posted by the Washington Post.   I think you’ll find it a sobering list of 5,866 people who have been killed by the cops since January 1, 2015.   I have not analyzed the data to see how many were black yet, but I intend to and I will post the details.

Black lives are not currently treated equally, they aren’t now and they haven’t been for a long time.  If they aren’t treated equally, then you aren’t saying that black lives matter.

82467670_10156857828921966_2987504608860962816_nBlack Lives Matter as much as white lives.

Black Lives Matter as much as middle eastern lives.

Black Lives Matter so people from Africa should be given the same rights and respect as people from England.

And they aren’t.

Because we aren’t.

Yes, we.   I’ll be writing more about it as time goes on, but it’s kind of awkward when I have to look in the mirror and see a relatively middle aged white guy and then think that throughout the centuries and even throughout the Civil Rights era of 40 years ago, who were the people behind most of the ways that we didn’t treat black lives like they mattered AS MUCH AS white lives?

The middle aged white guys. 

As Pastor Darrell says,  “Say Amen or say, Ouch.”

Ouch!

Tom

Times Change…..But do they?

28276382_10155314382716966_3287178305439075791_nThanks to our “friend” (and I use that term very loosely), Mr. Zuckerberg, we get quite often reminded of things that happened it in the past.   Some of it is hilarious – I was going to throw some examples in – but I don’t think my kids would like that.

Some of them are just, “Oh I remember when we did that!”   Some of them are not so fun – “Wow, it’s been 5 years since I broke my finger?’  (I think it’s actually closer to 9 years.)  Or “man, did you see how much hair I had 11 years ago?”

And then there are the thoughtful pieces.   If we’ve been hanging out on here for a while, you know what I’m talking about – the pieces that are designed to make you think.   There are people out there who get a lot of attention – way more than I do.   Jen Hatmaker  Bob Goff, John Pavlowvitz, Benjamin Watson, Brandon at Hony, Nicholas Kristoff, just to mention a few.   They write and people pay attention. 

Recently, due to Facebook’s “memories” I came across some writing that I did about this time of year in 2014.  6 years ago – has anything changed?  So I read through what I wrote and oh my…….

There’s a lot of changes and looking back on it, I think there’s a lot more we can learn from what has transpired since then.   I’ve spent a number of hours this morning reading through what I wrote then and there’s a lot more big and small issues that need to be given a closer look to hopefully better understand what’s going on since then and now.

I’m working on rewriting, updating and refocusing those pieces based on what changes have happened since then.

I hope you’ll join me for the walk through these times.   I think we will all understand what is happening right now.   So, join me.

Hope to hear from you on it as well.

 

Thanks,

 

Tom V