I can just hear it now.

You’re sitting in the lunch room at work (or any sort of similar place) and the topic turns to what you all did over the weekend.

The stories are piling up and each one tries to sound bigger and “better” than the previous one. You just sit there watching and listening and wondering.

Wondering? Yes. Wondering.

Wondering, what am I doing sitting here with people who do things and say things that I don’t find appropriate?

What am I doing even being around that kind of talk? Do I stay or do I go?

Do I stay and just sit quietly.

Or do I go? And if I go, do I go loud? Or do I go quiet?

“Hey ya’ll, I forgot that I’ve got to finish a report for a meeting at 3:00, I’m going to go get busy.”

Or

“Hey ya’ll, I don’t know how much of what you’re saying is true, but it bothers me that you talk about __________ that way.”

Suddenly, the conversation stops. Everyone looks at you and it’s quiet for maybe 15 seconds but it seems like forever. Then one of the loud ones starts laughing.

Laughing like you just said the funniest thing in the history of comedy. Laughing because by saying what you did, you revealed to them how different you are.

And it made them uncomfortable. So, they hid it by laughing.

You slowly pack up your lunch stuff and head back to your workspace and get busy doing what you’re supposed to do.

Lunch breaks is over. The gang heads back to work. They walk right past you like you weren’t even there. A couple of them move more slowly and put space between them and the rest. They quietly stop by your space and mumble something like, “thanks for standing up to them” or “I agree with you.”

The day is over, you head home. For devotions that night, you start reading Psalm 1.

“How well God must like you—
you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon,
you don’t slink along Dead-End Road,
you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.”
Psalm 1:1 MSG
https://www.bible.com/97/psa.1.1.msg

So what college did you go to? Did you go to Smart Mouth College?

Do you hang out at Sin Saloon?

What is your Sin Saloon? It’s not the same for everyone.

But we all have one (or more). You know those places, activities, thoughts that you know aren’t good but you find them so hard to leave alone.

But you know you should.

God wants you to.

God wants me to.

TV

Hospitals and Schools and Airports

I find myself fascinated by Hospitals and Schools and Airports.

“That’s really odd,” I can hear you thinking that already. Don’t deny it. 🙂

Why?

What do they have in common?

No, it’s not the size of the buildings.

No, it’s not where they are located.

It doesn’t have anything to do with how much money they make.

Or with how many cool toys there are at each one.

Or whether it’s run by the government or run by a private organization.

That’s not what fascinates me.

“Well then, tell us!”

It’s the stories.

Most of them you don’t know.

But.everyone.has.one.

And they are almost always not nearly as pretty of a story as it looks. And they are always significantly deeper and more varied and complicated than they look.

The “very successful business man” getting on an airplane while carrying his briefcase and talking on his phone (usually too loudly). You can’t see underneath to understand his true story. Maybe he isn’t successful but is trying to look the part. Maybe he’s off to visit another location of his business and eliminate 60 jobs at their plant in California. Maybe he’s…. or maybe he’s going…….

The young mom traveling with two little ones – is she going to visit Grandma? Or Dad? And what has led to this trip?

The family with “similar” looking winter gear on, obviously heading to somewhere with bigger hills than we have to do some winter activities together.

And the doctor walking down the hall at the hospital, she has 7 significantly younger staff (probably residents) following just barely behind her; she’s got a story. A story of good, of sleepless nights wondering if she did “it” right, of successes, of failures. A story of explaining to her kids that she couldn’t do …… Because she had to tend to the needs of someone who……..

The mom being pushed down the hall in a wheelchair holding a new born baby. So much happiness, so much wonder and a good bit of nervousness too. Dad follows behind carrying all of the flowers and balloons while trying to get used to the new name, “Dad.”

The older man with the stooped shoulders trying to navigate how to get to his wife’s hospital room. Worry worn very obviously heavy on his heart.

The elementary school students all full of energy and chaos and questions. What do they take home with them? What stories outside of school impact the way they “do” school?

The middle school students – that awkward phase where you are trying to figure out who you are and what your place in this world is, let alone what place in your school is “your fit.”

You can’t forget the high school students. A conundrum of conflict between the kid that I was and the adult that I think I’m going to be. A time where parents need to work themselves out of a job – and let them grow and think and do for themselves. And that involves pain and struggle and skinned knees and bruised egos and it involves big steps and small steps and closing doors and knocking on new ones.

High School – I’ve heard it said that the only people who like high school are the teachers and staff. I’m not sure that’s true but many of the former high school students I know (present company included) would agree with it.

And then there’s the teachers – Did you know that a math teacher doesn’t really teach math? And a Spanish teacher doesn’t teach Spanish?

That’s right, what they really teach is life. Sure, it’s life through the window of Math, or life through the lens of a foreign language or life through the thoughts and ramblings of Atticus Finch or Shakespeare or Dante. But it’s life they are teaching and the stories they get to see a glimpse of as they do that, it’s an amazing privilege and an awesome experience to see the “lightbulb” go on.

Stories – a multitude of stories. Some happy, some sad. Some strong, some weak. Some simple, some complex. Some wet with tears, some overflowing with laughter.

I look around and I see a whole bunch of people. But even more, I see stories. Everyone has a story. Many of us have many different chapters to our stories.

Most of us aren’t willing to share our stories, and so we keep them stuffed down inside. Sometimes that’s good, other times, if our stories aren’t told, that leads to deeper scars and harder stories.

And each of our stories has something to offer, something to teach, something to encourage others with. But they won’t, if we don’t share them.

That’s why the Facebook page for Humans of New York has over 17 million followers the last time I checked.

17 million – that’s like the entire population of New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago combined.

So share your story. Even if it’s only with one person.

Even if it’s only one chapter of your story. You just might be the boost that that one person needs.

TV

Boy, was I Naive……

If you had asked me before we started this adoption journey what it would look like, I probably would have told you something along the lines of this:

• We’d figure out where we were going to adopt from.
• Then we’d work with the people in charge and eventually figure out who we were going to adopt.
• We’d bring them home – and things would be noisy and crazy and full of adjustments.
• But after a while – maybe a year, maybe two – we’d settle into the new normal and life would go on pretty much as it was – just with more kids and more noise.

Boy was I naive’.

If our adoption story had gone that way, here’s a sampling of what I would have missed:
• I would have missed hearing Haitian roosters who couldn’t tell time – and crowed at 2:00 in the morning.
• I would have missed the sounds of Haiti in the night. It truly is musical.
• I would have missed getting to know some truly amazing people who have given and currently still give so much of themselves to help others.
• I would have missed the privilege of sitting with others in their pain and sadness – a privileged place that few are allowed to enter into.
• I would have missed a lifetime of learning about poverty, corruption, the 3rd world, racism and problems that are worth fighting against.
• I would have missed getting to know some great kids – Michno, Sonia, “Small Man” Peterson, Kenbe, Judith and Kerby and many more.
• I would have missed out on seeing some miracles – and not only did I see those miracles, I got to, I get to see those miracles as they turn from children without a future to children who healed and have a future and are a blessing to many. Elli, Roselaure, Danny – you are just a few of them.
• I would have missed out on conversations with an 80 year old lady in the hospital who told me that God gave her a second chance at life through a successful heart surgery and I gave her a chance to make a difference for kids in Haiti. There is a building at the orphanage named after her.
• I would have missed the opportunity in 2011 to sit on the porch at the orphanage late at night – in shorts and a t-shirt – while messaging with my wife who was at home in the middle of a major snow storm with wind chills approaching 30 degrees below and well over 2 ft of snow falling in 2 days time. I missed the storm and I’m still grateful.
• I would have missed out on being uncomfortable.
• I would have missed out on getting to know people at my current church – people like Christy and LeMaar and Susie and Pastor Darrell and Laura and…….
• I would have missed out on learning about and getting to know the people at Potter’s House School.

Boy was I naive’. Boy am I glad I was wrong. Has it been easy? Not a chance. Would I trade? Maybe for a day or two every now and then.

But not a chance.

TJV

Time – Wait for It

I’ll be writing more about it in the future (see what I did there – a reference to time?) but I wanted to share a couple of things about time and 2018 and how that has impacted my life.

2018 has not gone the way that I expected it would. I started out the year finishing up a long term substitute teacher assignment that I expected would last longer. While I agree on the reasons why they transitioned to substitute teachers who were experts in that field, it was still disappointing. If you are so inclined, add Mary Dornbos to your prayer list. She’s the teacher I filled in for and she’s still struggling with cancer.

The end of January, I had a medical procedure (more on that later) that I expected miight take a week or two to recover from. That was my anticipated time schedule based on what the doctors anticipated time schedule was.

God’s timing is different. As I’m writing this a number of months out, the recovery time has changed significantly. There looks like there will be long term, if any, recovery from some of the side effects.

That’s not the time frame that I wanted.

But God’s timing is not always our timing. And God’s ways are not always our ways.

So, as Laura Story wrote in her book, “When God Doesn’t Fix It” there is a time where you need to switch the question. You need to switch from asking, “Why God?” Or shouting, “Why God?” To asking, “How God?” “How are you going to use this, use this mess, use this pain, use what happened to your glory?” “What’s your plan?”

What’s your timing, God?

Waiting for God’s timing is hard. We want to be in control.

But the sooner we realize that we aren’t, the sooner we can hand that part over to God.

God’s timing is good. Sometimes it’s so good we can’t understand it.

Sometimes it’s so hard we can’t seem to stand it.

Sometimes the clock is facing the other direction so we can’t see his time.

What time is it? “Don’t worry, my son, I’ll take care of that.”

But what time is it? I just want to know!

“Don’t worry about what time it is, let me worry about that. Just follow my Iead.”

Okay God, you’re on.

Me

Understand…..

There’s a saying….

It’s hard to know who really said it first – it’s been attributed to many different people all in slightly different forms.

We studied it in college. Well, it’s about history and I was pursuing a history minor, so that’s not a big surprise.

What was it?

“Those who fail to understand history are destined to repeat it.”

I could bore you with a history lesson about the various people who, throughout history, neglected to learn from the mistakes of the past. And it came back and bit them in a big way.

Napoleon

Julius Caesar

Those are just two – I could give you many more. But instead, I want to share two assumptions that this saying makes about human nature and two reasons why it’s important to learn from the past.

Thing #1 – this says that, in many ways, human nature hasn’t really changed that much over the centuries. There are things that have changed, the tools we use, the housing we live in, the surroundings have changed, but the nature of human beings hasn’t changed that much
⁃ We’re still more likely to do the evil and the bad thing than we are the good thing.
⁃ We’re still more likely to put ourselves ahead of others.

Thing #2 – that we are a pride filled and frankly rather obnoxious bunch. What? How does it say that? It’s pretty simple.
⁃ If we, as a people, did a really good job of learning from the previous generations, then this saying wouldn’t need to be. It’s sort of like saying, “Make sure you breathe.” Well, of course, there isn’t the need to say that because with the exception of seriously ill individuals, we do that automatically. If we, as a human race were consistently attempting to look back at the past and learn from it, we wouldn’t need to mention it.
⁃ But we don’t. How does the saying go, “When I was two, I thought my Dad knew everything. When I was 13, I thought my Dad knew nothing. Now that I’m 33, I know that my Dad is pretty smart.” (Excuse the paraphrase but you know what it means.). As a country, we are doing a pretty impressive job of acting like the past means nothing and of saying and acting like it’s different this time.

With those being said, let me share with you two brief reasons why we should learn from the past:
1. The Wheel.
2. The rear view mirror.

What?

Do you know the person who first invented the wheel? No, me neither. But I’m really glad he did. It would be a lot harder to do life if someone hadn’t already invented the wheel. But they did and now we can get around a lot easier in many ways and many places..

Don’t reinvent the wheel – look back at history, learn what was done well and imitate it. Learn what screwed up and learn from that too.

The rear-view mirror – in order to know where you are going, it helps to know where you’ve been. Knowing the environment you are in, the roads, the type of traffic, these are some of the many things that help you understand where you are going. These are some of the things that you learn while looking in the rear view mirror.

I wish I could say that I felt that people who are “movers and shakers” in today’s world have learned from the past. I can’t.

I wish I could say that I was confident that they would learn from past mistakes. They don’t appear to be doing so.

Those who fail to understand history are destined to repeat it. As things move forward on here, we’re going to do a fair amount of looking back to attempt to learn from the past.

I hope you’ll join me.

Tom