Hope

Hope

It seems like it’s in short supply these days.

Hope

for a better economic future – while thousands upon thousands if not millions flee their homes and their home country

in hope of a better future.

Hope

For safety – whether that be in rural parts of Africa, the refugee camps in the Middle East, or the streets of Chicago

Hope to make it to tomorrow

Hope

For a freedom to be able to express who you are – even if it doesn’t line up with the Main Street culture of your “town.”

Hope for a greater sense of “neighbor” and a lesser sense of “I need to be like that.”

Hope

For a future generation growing up in such times as these.

Hope that they’ll grow up for such a time as this.

Hope

That there will continue to be leaders who are devoted to bringing Hope

Hope

like oxygen to a world continually gasping for breath.

Hope

that the next generation will catch that Hope – and share it with others.

Hope.

Hope in something bigger than myself.

Hope in a generation that uses their iPhones to communicate.

Hope that they will use them to do good.

And not to bring others down.

Hope

Hope – that an older generation looks for in the younger generation

But rarely truly sees it.

Hope

That a younger generation looks for, but has trouble seeing

Hope

Hope that they can see a future

and help the One who made it

bring it

here

to our world

Not because it’s our Hope – but because it’s the Hope He gave to us.

Hope

Hope that because my God is in control of it all, I can hope to be part of a new tomorrow.

Last night, in a small gym at a small school in this place called Grand Rapids Michigan, I saw Hope.

I saw a group of teenagers come together. With Hope.

They wanted to mix styles and cultures and blend it all together and give us hope.

Hope in a God who loves us.

Not because we deserve it, but just because He loves us.

Hope in the leaders of tomorrow, hope that they will be God’s leaders of today.

Hope that teenagers can be more, can dig deeper, can use their gifts to bring hope in their world.

The Potter’s House High School is located in Wyoming Michigan and they serve an amazingly diverse student body – made up of students born in over 30 different countries. Made up of students, many of whom did not have Hope before coming through the doors of Potter’s House, who now see that they do have Hope and a future.

The Potter’s House Gospel Choir, led by Professor Nate Glasper, is a diverse group of teenagers with an amazing passion for music and for being a witness to the Hope we have through God no matter comes our way.

Check out Potter’s House at https:tphgr.org.

I went to a worship concert last night. I came home with a distinct sense of hope.

God is good.

All the time.

TV

The undercover Face of Grief

I don’t think I ever really grasp, until this last year, the impact that my previous “episodes” with my AVM had on me. Looking back on it, there are a number of times where it changed the course of many things and I didn’t know it at that time.  Looking back on it, my life, my family and both sets of parents are richer because of it.

I’m going to call this Face of Grief – the Undercover Face. I know I probably watch too many cop shows on TV, but you know the undercover cops? The ones who are just moving around in the “normal” world trying not to be noticed.   
Trying to do their job, trying to gain access to the center of what’s happening, and trying to do it without you realizing it. That’s what the undercover face is.

Except on the cop shows, the undercover cop is the good guy and the people he’s trying to get “in with” are bad guys. In this case, it’s the exact opposite. He’s the bad guy, grief is the undercover face that’s trying to sneak in to your life. And you don’t see him and you don’t notice the trail of dirt that he left walking through your kitchen late at night. You don’t see that all is not well.

And then suddenly, you realize that he’s there. And suddenly you see all of the things that have happened which are ways you could should have seen him coming. But you didn’t. And he scared you quite badly.  

My parents lived with that undercover face of grief from 1972 to 2018. He was always around, but not always seen. I believe that in many ways, God used the grief and the sorrow that my dad experienced with his cancer to make his ministry and his life a much deeper and more impactful life for so many.

I’ve had that undercover face of grief hiding around me for a long time too. 1978 – I was in 8th grade. And I had to go to Mayo Clinic (at that point, I thought Mayo was the place where all of the really really sick people went). 1986 – the AVM was back – just as I was finishing college and expecting our oldest…..

So what have I learned from the Undercover Face of Grief? A couple of things:

 • Trust God – God is the parent there to help you when you are scared, sad, worried, and happy, funny, joy-filled. God is there to walk beside you – invite him to join you or you join him and the Undercover Face of Grief won’t be so scary when it shows up – and it will – we live in a fallen world.

 • Remember that as scary as the undercover face might be, when he “shows up” the light of Jesus and the support of others makes him less scary.

 • Don’t live your life scared of the Undercover Face. Instead, look for the joy in life. Look for the things that will add purpose and meaning to your life. Look for the difference you can make in your world – whether it’s in your home, your community or way beyond that.

 • Look around you – there are probably people you know who are staring down that Face of Grief right now. Stand up with them, stand next to them, tell them, “You are not alone.”

One of the many things I have learned over the last years is that there are way more people who are struggling and way less people who have all of their “ducks in a row” than I ever would have thought.

So, when your grief shows his head after hiding behind the scenes, acknowledge him, look at your life – are there things you’ve been doing that have made it easier for him to hide? I’m thinking of the old country and western song about drowning your sorrows…..

God’s grace is enough. Actually, the writer of Psalm 4 says, “I have God’s more than enough”

When grief shows it’s face, know that God’s grace is more than enough.

TJV

The Faces of Grief

I’ve wrestled with grief a lot in this past year, actually this past year and then some. It’s been a time of deep spiritual growth and also deep spiritual “testing.”

I’m still not done with it. But I thought that before we get into a journey through my Dad’s preaching, I’d take a bit and fill you in on some of what I’ve learned about grief. Many of the “formal” educated writings about grief talk about the stages of grief. Instead, I want to look at it as the “Faces of Grief.” Why?

Because I don’t think you actually move from one stage to another and so on and then you get to stage 7 and grief is gone. Grief doesn’t go away. It changes, it looks different, it hides around the corner some times, but it never actually goes away.

At least not until God calls us home and reunites us with those we’ve been separated from. Then all grief is gone.

Along the lines of being called home, I was talking to a friend a few months back and we were catching up on the hard years we’ve both been having. My friend commented, “You know, I don’t know how they would do it. I’ve gotten to know other families in the ICU over the months we’ve been there. Some of them are Christians and their faith is helping them make it through. Others aren’t Christians and say that they have no belief in anything beyond the here and now.”

“I know it’s hard to understand, actually I don’t understand, why bad things happen to good people, but to have no hope for a future? No hope of ever being able to hug your Dad again?”

If you are in that place, struggling to understand why bad things happen, trying to understand God’s ways, don’t suffer quietly. Talk to someone – a minister, the chaplain at the hospital, a friend, stop in to the church down the street and ask to talk to the pastor. Don’t wait until it is too late.

I will be the first to admit, I don’t have all of the answers. Shoot, if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit I don’t have hardly any answers. I don’t know why my Dad got hit with cancer 5 times during his 80 years on this earth. I don’t know why I have been dealing with this ArterioVenous Malformation for 41 years now. I don’t know why previous treatments (1978, 1986, 2009) left me with very little side effects but the 2018 surgery left it’s mark on me and that mark isn’t going away.

I don’t know why, I don’t know what the future holds. But I know who holds my future.

And that’s good enough for me.

Tom


A Legacy

Most of the time, when someone talks about someone “leaving a legacy” it’s usually because they spent money on something big, donated something big, discovered a cure for something really nasty, invented something, those type of “things.”

I want to talk instead about a different type of legacy. It’s not a legacy that has a price tag on it.

It’s not a legacy that you can drive past and remember the person.

It’s not a particular cure for something.

It’s a legacy of faith. A legacy of hard work. A legacy of willingness to follow God’s leading. A legacy of leading and caring and challenging and encouraging.

A legacy of keeping records.

What?

Yeah, that’s right, my Dad kept a very detailed record of and copies of most if not all of his sermons. Hard copies waiting in a filing cabinet in their basement.

Waiting for what?

Waiting for such a time as this.

As we as a family looked at the drawer after drawer of sermons, there seemed to be two questions that came to mind through many of us:

  • How do we keep copies of them for future generations?
  • How do we share them now to keep the work and the caring and the guiding that Dad did alive and use it to encourage others?

We’re working on the technical side of how to keep them for future generations. That is well underway.

And I’m starting the other part.

I have no idea how long it will take, I have no idea where it will go.

One of my Dad’s sermons that is in the top 5 of most remembered sermons is one called, “God moves in Zig Zag Lines.” Because of that, I don’t believe it would be wise for any of us to plan too far in advance on where we start or what parts we move to next or anything like that.

God moves in Zig Zag Lines and we are going to see where we find God leading us.

I hope you’ll stay with us, it’s going to be an interesting journey.

Tom

Where are we going?

“Are we there yet?”

Haven’t we all either said that or heard someone else say that. It would probably rank up there pretty high in a poll for the “most annoying thing ever said in a car.”

As I’m beginning this Spiritual Journey, I’ve been doing a good bit of wrestling with the question, “Where are we going? And also the question, “Are we there yet?”

The answer that I’ve come up with can work for both of those questions and can be spelled out in three words:

I

Don’t

Know

I don’t know where we are going on this spiritual journey. If my Dad were still here and I could ask him if his ministry went in the direction he thought it would, I know he would say that it hasn’t. There are many things that happened during my dad’s ministry that far exceeded what he originally thought they would when he was back in Seminary.

So, I don’t know where we’re going, and I don’t know when we’ll get there.

I don’t even know if there is a “there” here.

The journey is the goal. The destination is not somewhere to go, the destination is to be on the journey.

I hope you’ll join me.

Tom