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.


My kids have asked me…….

My brothers have asked me….

I’ve had friends ask me.


Why do you write? Why do you have so many words in your head that you want to put on paper (or electronic paper in the era of blogging…..?)

To quote what is probably the most popular musical/show of our time, “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?”  (That’s a topic for another day)

But it often brings to memory a story about my Dad and my Grandpa from when my Dad was a young kid.  I don’t know how old he was, but let’s just say he was in elementary school and one Saturday, he was “helping” my Grandpa in the garage.  Grandpa was a wonderful man and I love him to pieces but he never got above an 8th grade education and he wasn’t the most talkative person in the family.   So, on this Saturday, Dad is helping Grandpa and asking questions, rumor has it, at the rate of approximately 5 questions per minute.  Grandpa finally lost his patience and said, “HOWARD, why do you ask questions all of the time?  Why can’t you be quiet and just work with me?”  (Insert parental sigh that we all know.)

My Dad stopped what he was helping Grandpa with, looked at Grandpa and said, “But Dad, I’ve got questions!”

Why do I write?  Because I’ve got questions and more often than not, writing either helps me find the answers or it clarifies the questions.

“Because I’ve got questions……”


I’m Not Going To

I’m not going to mention their names.   Because they wouldn’t want it that way.

I’m not going to mention their names.  Because they aren’t in it for attention.

I’m not going to mention their names.  Because they will just find someone who they think deserves it more.

I’m not going to mention their names.  Because they work on all levels.

I’m not going to mention their names.  Because whether they call the shots, bring the shots, or clean the floor, they are all important.

I’m not going to mention their names.  Because I know there are too many for me to name them all, let alone name all of them that I know.

But I’ll remind you that this pandemic has thousands and thousands and probably even millions of people doing what has to be done on the front line to push back against the pandemic and keep some semblance of what the world was like before this all hit.

People of different walks of life, people with different skill sets, but people with the same passion.   The passion is to help people.  How they do it varies.  

But the overall need is great.

And getting greater.

You don’t see their names.   You don’t see them running into a burning building.

But in many ways they are.

Say a prayer tonight  for all who are fighting to keep us as safe as possible in the CoVid19 pandemic. 

It’s not easy, it’s at great personal risk.

That’s why anyone fighting CoVid19 is a hero in my book.



“I Too” by Langston Hughes

This was brought to my attention a year ago today. Randall Pierson from “This is Us” brought it to many people’s attention……

“I too” by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.
I the darker brother
they send me to eat in the kitchen
when company comes,
But I laugh, eat well, and grow strong
tomorrow, I’ll be at the table
when company comes.
nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“eat in the kitchen, “
they’ll see how beautiful we are
and be ashamed–
I, too, am

Thanks to Randall Pearson – “This is Us”

Conforming and Transforming – on Facebook?

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I’m reading in my devotions this morning and I come to Romans 12:2. “Do Not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind – on Facebook.”

Romans 12:2 NIV

Wait, what? Did Paul actually tell us to transform ourselves and renew our minds on FACEBOOK?

Well, not really. He didn’t specifically mention Facebook. I mean, really, Mr. Z wasn’t even alive back then. But look at a couple of things with me, and Mr. Zuckerberg might actually be making more sense than we thought.

I mean, if you look at it, does Paul state what we should be doing during an election period? Should we be following what the “leaders of this world” say? Not only the governmental leaders, but the media leaders, the news leaders, the local pastor, the mayor. Is Paul stating that we should follow them? Oh and also the Facebook stars and the Instagram “leaders.” Is he saying we should follow what Kim Kardashian is saying on Twitter? (I actually have more thoughts on that for another time)

Yes, he does and no he doesn’t. Paul says he wants us to transform our minds and by that we will be able to follow God’s pattern for our lives.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world?”

How do you avoid conforming to the pattern of this world? I mean especially during an election season where there are so many people yelling and yelling and blaming this guy and saying it was that guy’s fault and inflating this figure and that one.

I think you have to use the tools that are in front of you to make those decisions. And you can’t say that 1 particular “test” means that that is the right person. Especially in our tumultuous times, it’s really hard to honestly say that one line item tells you everything you need to know to vote wisely. Well, Mr. ______ said that Ronald Reagan was a __________ so I’m never going to vote for him.

Yeah, not so smart.

Instead, we need to fight the patterns of the world and look seriously at not only one question, but what God says and what he wants.

And then you can go tomorrow (or today) and vote knowing that you searched out where you felt God was calling you to listen.



Is your pastor quiet about racism? I listened to a college professor recently who switched churches because she, as a person of color, and her family could not sit every Sunday and never once hear anything about color, the effects of color, the effects of Covid19 on people of color. She told her pastor on the first Wednesday of November 2016 that they weren’t sure where they would be going, but they knew they couldn’t stay where someone with the beliefs and statements of Donald Trump was elected, but even more disappointing to her and her family was the fact that so many White evangelicals (pretty much all of West Michigan could fit in or be close to that description) supported the beliefs and morals and ethics of Donald Trump. The most recent statement of people the likes of Franklin Graham show that the number is easing slightly but not enough to make a difference yet.

If you happen to know Franklin Graham or have read a lot of his works (I have not – I just know him as Billy’s son) and can direct me to a place in his writings and speaking where he explains how an American Christian can support Donald Trump in.particular his lies, his verbal assaults and the money paid out to women because of those assaults of various type, I would love to read it.

I don’t expect you’ll be able to find such things. At lease not in documents that are issued by anyone with any sort of credibility on the subject.

Until you do, we’re stuck with pastors who are quiet about major social justice issues and Christian publicists/speakers promoting a Commander in Chief who, well, I’m going to fall back on something my Mom has had a saying she used for decades (well, we’re all growing up – or old) “if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything….