I Wish…..

That Today was just a “normal” Sunday.

I wish that we didn’t “have” to have a day to say thank you to the Dads who show up every day.

I wish that showing up was considered the norm and not an exception.

I wish that today wasn’t so hard for those whose Dads didn’t show up.

I wish that more Dads would show up for those whose Dads didn’t show up or can’t show up.

I wish that church didn’t feel that it needed to celebrate fathers in a way that often hurts those who don’t have a good father figure in their lives.

I wish that more Dads would admit that they don’t know everything.

I wish that more Dads would realize that it’s okay to not be okay – and it’s okay to admit it.

I wish more teenagers knew that their Dads want them to succeed.

I wish more teenagers knew that their Dads love them.

I wish there were less kids in foster care and orphan care wondering about their Dads.

I wish that nurses didn’t have to work on days like this because I wish there weren’t Dads whose children are in the hospital today.

I wish it wasn’t so hard for many to understand the God as Father image because of the strain in their relationship with their Dad.

I wish that I had had more than 53 years to spend with my Dad. 

I miss him.

But I’m glad that my children had anywhere from 14 to 31 years with their grandpa in their lives.

And I’m grateful for the time I’ve had to spend with him.

TJV

The Devil Isn’t Happy Tonight……

See, there’s this “kid” (yeah, I’m old enough to call someone in their 20’s a kid). He’s a preacher’s kid and a preacher’s grandkid.

He’s grown up “in the church” but his preacher dad wasn’t a stereotypical preacher. He planted a church – out west in this state called California. This kid grew up with a passion for others – a caring about those who are “the least of these.” While in college, this kid spent time living and working in places where he was in the minority. His passion for those who are in the minority has always been very evident.

While this kid was in college, he met a girl. Not just any girl, but a girl who shared his desire to make the world a better place. Not the easy life, not the simple life, but the life that God wants her to live.

Boy meets girl, before long, boy realized girl was someone special. Girl realized boy was someone special too. You know how those stories play out. This one did too.

Today, boy and girl went to church. In front of family and friends, they listened to a minister (who happened to be boy’s dad). Dad talked about what a special day this was because it was the blending of two stories. His story and her story became their story.

But it wasn’t really their story. It was God’s story. It is God’s story. It’s not a story about them, it’s a story where they play a role but God writes it.

The entire time at church revolved around that theme – that this wasn’t his story and her story, this is about what God’s up to in their lives. And as evidence that it’s God’s story, the time at church ended with a time of worship. No special music, a time spent worshipping God and reminding us all that God’s got this. All of this.

Tonight, Adam and Maddie said, “God, we’re going to join our stories and make them part of your story. God, we know that together, you can use us as part of your story.”

The devil isn’t happy tonight. Because there’s a team on God’s side. A team that together will do more to advance God’s story.

And that makes the devil a bit grumpy, don’t you think?

Adam and Maddie, thank you for blessing all of us with a time of worship and a focus that reminded all of us that God’s bigger than us but He’s also calling us all to be part of his story.

Uncle Tom is happy for you both and Maddie – welcome to the family.

TJV

From Words to Numbers? For 20 Years? Really?

As I write that title, I can’t help but smile and think that some of my classmates in my English classes at Calvin might think that spending 20 years dealing with numbers would be something along the lines of “cruel and unusual punishment.”

How in the world did I end up getting there? Well, that’s a long story. Probably too long for this space – so we’ll just hit the highlights……

It had to do with growing up a substantial drive away from grandparents – both my wife and I did.

It had to do with living a very short distance (but long enough) away from both my parents and my parents in law.

It had to do with a newborn baby who is, gulp, into her 30’s already. (What happened?)

It had to do with a teaching job market that was really tight.

So what does that give you?

It gives you a young married couple with a newborn baby who had to make a choice – either move away and get a job as a teacher and have our baby only see her grandparents a couple of times a year. Oh and my wife would have to find a different job in a different place – and she had the job she had wanted since before I had the privilege of asking her out on our first date.

Or…..

We stay in town, my wife keeps her job (and 32 years later, she’s still at the same hospital still caring for moms and babies) and my daughter (and her 4 siblings that came later) were able to grow up knowing their grandparents. Oh and then I figure out something else to do with that English Degree.

Guess which one we chose? And all four grandparents and all five kids are better off for it.

My dad has preached a sermon entitled “God Moves in Zig Zag Lines.” Well, through some of those zig zag lines, I found myself in banking. Not just in banking, but in residential lending. And guess what?

The communication skills that Mr. Fondse and Professor VandenBosch instilled in me? Those skills served both my customers and I very well as I was able to help many many people through the often confusing labrynth of mortgage terms and procedures.

Did my English degree serve me well in banking? I believe it did.

Do I ever regret putting my family before my career? No, God had a plan and I just followed it.

So, I thought I was going to be an English Teacher – God “urged” me into banking for 20 years.

And then in 2003, I stepped on a plane in Miami and everything changed…….

(Stay tuned)

Tom

Never Underestimate the Power of an Excellent Teacher

It started when I was in high school. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do other than go to college. I was still figuring that all out (in some ways I still am).

And then I took this English class. The teacher was a guy by the name of Jerry Fondse. The class totally changed my life.

Now, I have to admit, I don’t remember exactly what we studied in that class. I don’t remember what books we read. But I do remember how Mr. Fondse instilled in me the love of reading (I already had it – but this is different) and the love of writing. He made it emjoyable to not only read for the sake of a good story but also to read for the sake of learning, of understanding people, of seeing the other viewpoint.

He opened up the door to other worlds.

And he gave me the first insight into what I wanted to do for a living. I wanted to be a Mr. Fondse.

Well, not him personally, but I wanted to go to college, get a degree in English and teach other high school kids the power of the written word, the power of understanding other people, of understanding other viewpoints, of books and reading. So, I graduated from high school and went to college with that as my goal.

I believe it was the second semester of my freshman year at Calvin when I met the second teacher who changed my world. Literally, after taking one English class with him, I rearranged my schedule and tried to take every possible English class I could take with him. And, as an English major, you do take a LOT of English classes.

He had the ability (or gift – take your pick) to make foreign literature seem comfortable.

He had the ability to help us understand stories that were written in Old English and see them as real, see them as powerful and to see the world they were written in.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were many other teachers who had a powerful impact, but Jerry Fondse and Professor James VandenBosch are the two teachers who had the biggest impact on my life and who instilled in me the desire to understand and enjoy other opinions, other worlds and other people’s stories. They also gave me the first solid glimpse into the power of writing and of sharing your story and your viewpoints through the written word.

Don’t ever underestimate the power of an excellent teacher.

Thank you, Mr. Fondse and Professor VandenBosch for being excellent teachers who had a very important and lasting impact on my life.

Tom

P.S. Coming up next – why did this guy with an English degree spent 20 years dealing with numbers?

P.S.S. Edgar Allan Poe is one of the authors that Mr. Fondse really taught me to appreciate…..


Why I Write….

So, I started this blog a number of years ago. Sometimes, it’s been rather active, sometimes it’s been quiet. Lately, it’s been more quiet than active.

I’ll explain more of why that has been as we move along this journey.

Why did I start it? I started it because I like to write. I find comfort and enjoyment in taking thoughts and ideas and putting them down on paper (or on digital paper actually.) In addition to that, many of my life experiences have given me insights that I wanted to share with others.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I’m soon going to be taking this blog to a different level. I’ve decided, for a number of reasons, that I need to do more writing on here. There are too many things going on that I can’t be quiet about. So, I’m not going to be.

But……..

Before I do, I think it’s important that you know a little bit more about me. I think it’s important that you understand where I’m coming from, where I’m writing from,

What matters to me and why I want it to matter to you.

Some of it you might know, some of it you probably won’t know. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be dragging any skeletons out of the closet……

These are turbulent times we live in, I hope you’ll join me on this journey and see where it leads me and see where it leads you and see where it leads us.

Thanks for listening,

Tom