Getting Smart

In the previous post, we talked about how it is important to push back against confusion and misunderstanding. We talked about how it’s important to push back against those because if we can clear up confusion and misunderstanding, it’s easier to push back against evil.

Why? Because evil likes to create confusion.

Evil likes to use misunderstanding to hide from the light of day.

Now I want to make it more personal. I don’t want to talk about government policies that are confusing. I don’t want to talk about how the motives behind what so and so does are being misunderstood.

I want to talk about you. I want to talk about me.

I can’t speak for you, maybe you do. I don’t.

Don’t what? I don’t know everything.

Not even close. Actually, so far from close that it’s funny to even think about.

But I know that if I get smarter, I can make more of a difference. If I ask questions, I can learn more. If I read about things, I can learn what is going on.

Most people are more afraid of what they don’t know about than what they do. If they don’t understand what is happening or why, that can create fear. It can create contempt.

I don’t understand your music – so it must be bad music.

I don’t understand your language – so you must be talking nasty about something or someone.

I don’t understand your religion so I don’t like you.

I don’t…….

The list can go on and on and on.

But if I do understand, then I can see you for you, not for what I didn’t understand.

If I do understand, then I can see the reason behind behaviors and not be afraid of the behaviors as evil or hostile.

If I understand your history, then I can appreciate your cultural festivals and respect them and you better.

If I understand the reason behind events in history, then I can see them for the impact they have on you and on me.

Most people are afraid of things that they don’t understand.

Many people will, when they understand things or people or traditions or habits or whatever, respond in a way that furthers communication and relationships.

And that makes the world a better place.

Tom

Tom

When…..

When I’m an adult…..

When my kids are out of school…..

When we get the house paid off……

When I get my college degree…….

When……

When…….

Guess what – God doesn’t work that way.

God doesn’t say, “When you’re an adult, I want you to……”

“When your medical problems are gone, I want you to…..”

“When you graduate, then can you……?”

“When your kids are out of school, then……..”

“When your kids go back to school, then…….”

God says, “I am God, your God. I love you more than you deserve or can even understand. You don’t have to do anything to “earn” my love, it is given freely.”

But God also says that when we are helping the poor or the sick or the needy or those in jail, we are doing that to him and for him. So, we can help the needy and show, through our actions, how grateful we are to God for his love. Or we can ignore those in need or worse yet, support programs and policies that harm those in need and we are in direct conflict with God’s designed purpose.

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’”
Matthew 25:37-40 MSG
http://bible.com/97/mat.25.37-40.msg

There’s an author by the name of John Pavolvitz who makes me think. He writes a lot about the current happenings in the world and one of the reasons he makes me think is because I don’t always agree with what he says, but he is very persuasive. He’s a hard writer to just “brush off.”

He wrote a piece on Tuesday, you can read the whole piece at https://johnpavlovitz.com/2018/07/03/pick-a-hill-worth-dying-on-america/
But let me read you one paragraph…..

“So instead of lamenting how horrible it all is, accept the invitation to make it less horrible.
Instead of looking to the sky and wondering why no one is doing anything, you do something.
Step out of the cloistered place of your private despair, and into a jacked-up world that you can alter by showing up.
Use your gifts and your influence and your breath and your hands—and fix something that is badly broken before it breaks beyond repair.”

Don’t just stand there and complain about how bad things are, pick something that’s important to you and get busy trying to be the change.

Be the change for kids in foster care.
Be the change for immigrant families on the border with Mexico.
Be the change for your church.
Be the change to combat racism in your community.
Be the change to elect truly competent and wise people to run our government – at all levels.
Be the change for the kids who attend schools that are underfunded and overcrowded.
Be the change for……..

Don’t just stand there and talk about how awful things are. Don’t just stand there and say, “there’s so much that is wrong in this world, how would I even make a difference?” God doesn’t want us all to do everything.

God wants each of us to do something.

What’s your something?

Tom

Columbine and a Moral Compass?

I know I’m aging myself when I say this, but how many of you can remember where you were when you heard the news about the shooting at Columbine’s high school?   I can.  I can tell you which gas station I was pulling into when it came on the radio. While it wasn’t the first shooting, it was, in many ways, the most widely discussed, widely seen and closely scrutinized.  

But not the only one.  

And last week, there was another one.  For me, this one hit a little closer to home because a friend of mine knows one of the students who was killed.

There are so many screaming voices out there in the social media world right now.   

Some of them are screaming, “take away the guns!”   Others are screaming, “don’t touch my guns!   I need my semi-automatic sub machine gun!”

Some are saying, “Isn’t this awful, we’ll keep them in our thoughts and prayers…..” and then moving on with their own life.   Others are saying the “thoughts and prayers” comments in front of a camera to make themselves appear to look better.

Some are saying, “He must have been mentally ill, our system failed him and them.”    Others are saying, “Then why is the government slashing mental health budgets and why are we standing by quietly while they slash the funding to take care of those with mental illnesses?”

Some are saying, “the shooter was white and was arrested unharmed – would that have been different if he was black?  or Hispanic?”   Good question

Some are saying, “It’s the video games.   They are too violent.”   And then they go to movies that glorify violence.

I read an article over the weekend that I believe reframes the context.   It offers an explanation of what is happening and why it is happening.

But it doesn’t offer a “how do we fix it” to the problem.   Read my comments below:

https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/why-do-mass-shootings-happen-best-explanation/

Writing in 2015, Malcolm Gladwell wrote what I think is still the best explanation for modern American mass shootings, and it’s easily the least comforting. At the risk of oversimplifying a complex argument, essentially he argues that each mass shooting lowers the threshold for the next. He argues, we are in the midst of a slow-motion “riot” of mass shootings, with the Columbine shooting in many ways the key triggering event.

A “slow motion riot of mass shootings.”

They are all connected?   And everyone since the Columbine shooters is looking back and saying, “If he did, I can?”   “If he did, I can do better? or louder? or with more force?”

Let’s apply the Vanderwell Rule of 50%.  Actually, let’s turn it into the Vanderwell Rule of 33%.   Let’s say, for discussion sake, that there are three main reasons why these school shootings are happening:

  • Guns – there are too many guns that are designed for maximum destruction that are accessible to people who shouldn’t have them.   Not that there are too many guns or that all guns are bad, but just that there are too many guns of maximum destructive power that are available.
  • Exposure to violence – there’s too many examples in the media, in video games, in movies where violence not only happens very frequently but the message that comes with the violence is that violence is the answer to your problem.   If you don’t like it, shoot someone.

Oh and both of those reasons and their proponents fail miserably at supporting the mental health profession to make sure there are adequate resources to deal with and support those with mental health illnesses and those who are trying to get them help.

  • The last reason of our three reasons is what the article explained – it’s a slow motion riot.   Every school shooting makes it more likely that another one will happen.   Every school shooting makes it more likely that the next one will try to be bigger.   Every school shooting creates trauma that will impact and harm the survivors for the rest of their lives.

All three of those reasons have one thing in common.   They are all impacted by the fact that we have, as a nation, as a society, as communities, lost our moral compass:

  • We’ve lost our moral compass because we think it’s okay for semi automatic weapons of mass destruction to be available for way too many people.
  • We’ve lost our moral compass because we glorify violence – not violence that happens as part of the military – but violence that happens when people decide that shooting is the answer to their anger.
  • We’ve lost our moral compass because every time another school shooting happens, nothing changes.  And that makes the next one more likely.

We’ve lost our moral compass. 

We don’t need a new one, we need to find the one that we’ve used for a very long time.   Pick it up, dust it off and start using it again.  How do we do that?

Gun laws – many of my “pro gun” friends argue that we don’t need new laws because the existing laws are adequate to keep those kind of guns out of the hands of those who can’t handle them.   If so, then push our government to enforce the laws.   Get to know your local, county, state and federal representatives and urge them to support enforcement of good gun laws – ones that keep guns in the right hands and out of the unsafe ones.

Glorifying violence – how do you combat that?  Vote with your wallet.   Don’t let the industry have record breaking success with the movies and shows and games that promote senseless violence.   Speak out by supporting the industry people who don’t promote those type of violent behaviors

Mental illness – we’ve lost our moral compass because for too many people and for too long, we’ve refused to be willing to acknowledge mental illness the same way we do physical disabilities.   Look at the funding and budget slashing going on in the mental health field.   Look at how difficult insurance companies make it to get good quality mental health care.   Once again, we have lost our moral compass and we need to change that, support the mentally ill and provide the resources to those trying to get them help.

Slow Motion Riot – if every one of these school shootings is another step in a slow motion riot, then we’ve lost our moral compass because our children are growing up either afraid that their classmates will shoot them or thinking that it’s okay to shoot someone they are mad at   How do we address that?

  • The church needs to do a better job, a much better job, at making the Bible and Jesus relevant in the lives of the younger generations.   I wrote, this morning, about the youth director at our church.   The church needs more people to be leaders and relevant to the youth of today.
  • The schools need to do a better job at promoting decency, politeness and respect.   Now before you get all up and upset with me, I’m not saying that will stop school shootings – but it will certainly make schools a nicer place to be and a safer place to be.
  • The families – and those who support and can support families – need to work towards an environment of love, respect and authority so that kids will feel safe, will feel like they matter and will feel like they have a future.

Whew, if you made it this far, thank you.   None of these are the complete answer, but all of them together could make a big difference.

Now the question is, are we going to do anything?

Tom

The Passing of the Torch – a tale of two Doctors

Once upon a time, there was this kid from Muskegon (for those of you not from Michigan, that’s about 45 minutes northwest of Grand Rapids.)

As he grew up, he wanted to become a preacher.

So he did.

And it was good.

And he was good at it.

And God used him to serve and help many people.

And that kid went on to get additional education. After a while, he got another Master’s degree and then he got a doctorate.

But he never wanted to use that title. That’s just not what he was about. He was about helping people and serving God.

And it was good. It wasn’t easy but it was good.

Many times, it was hard but it was good.

And God used him to serve and help many people.

Four of those hard times came when his body was hit by cancer.

Those times impacted many people, touched many lives, encouraged many other people going through hard times.

In 1972, he beat the cancer.

In 1984, he beat the cancer.

In 1990, he beat the cancer.

And then it came back in 2017. A different type, a new battle, but still that “c” word.

By then, this kid from Muskegon was pushing close to 80 years old. That’s far enough along in years to have grandkids pursuing careers.

There was this girl from Jenison who wanted to become a nurse.

And she did.

And it was good.

And she was good at it.

And God used her to help people, particularly very sick kids and their families, in very difficult times.

It was hard, but it was good.

And then this girl from Jenison wanted to do more.

And God opened doors and she learned more and figured out more ways to help kids and their families.

And she taught college students who are learning to be nurses.

And she got more education.

After her grandpa was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, she said to her dad, “I think it’s too much to hope for, but I’d love it if Grandpa could be at my graduation.”

Dr. Vanderwell could attend Dr. Vanderwell’s graduation and be part of watching her become the next generation of Dr. Vanderwells.

But it wasn’t to be.

35 days. 

God called the first Dr. Vanderwell home 35 days ago.

For 35 days, there wasn’t a Dr. Vanderwell here on this earth.

But there is again.

In many ways, she’s a different Doctor.

But in many ways, she’s the same and has learned much from the first Dr. Vanderwell.

Do what you do to care for people.

Do what you do to make the world a better place.

Do what you do to spread the love of Jesus.

Today, we witnessed the passing of the torch.

From Grandpa to granddaughter.

While it hurts that he wasn’t able to be “here” to see the graduation, I know, we know, that he saw it from Heaven.

And it was good.

May God continue to bless the new Dr. Vanderwell and give her the continued passion to impact people and change lives like her Grandpa did – even though she’ll do it in her own special way.

And this Dad is proud of both generations today. Proud to be the first Dr. Vanderwell’s son and proud to be the second Dr. Vanderwell’s Dad.

God is good. (All the time)

All the time. (God is good)

Tom