Time – God’s Time

This really should be part 1 of the 3 part series on time – because God comes first.

He created time. You know, the whole “There was evening and there was morning – the first day.” Yeah that.

But in telling “my story” I’m telling it as part 3 because it is kind of a conclusion to the other two stories. It’s God’s Time.

I could tell you story after story about things that have happened, things that haven’t happened, things that happen at a totally different speed than we’d like. And there’s one underlying theme to it all.

God

God’s got his plan and his time. And he knows WAY better than we do.

We try to push and squeeze and work and beg and plead to get things done according to our time. And it quite often doesn’t work out that way.

Sometimes we can see why – later.

Sometimes we don’t understand why – at least not on this side of heaven.

Sometimes we just need to trust God and say, “God, I don’t get it but it’s your time.”

Time

It’s hard to give up control of it.

It’s hard to admit we don’t understand it.

It’s hard when we hear or see God saying, “No” or “Not yet.”

Remember Moses and the Israelites? They spent 40 years wandering in the desert? Why?

The way I see it, there are two reasons:
⁃ The Israelites didn’t believe it was the right time when God told them to go take Israel back from the surrounding countries.
⁃ The Israelites didn’t have hearts that were open to God’s time rather than to their own time.

They needed to learn that God’s time was and is better than our time.

And that when we say, “God, it’s your time – use it and use me as you see best.”

Then we can really and truly be part of God’s plan.

And that’s a beautiful and a hard thing at the same time.

What time is it? It’s God’s time.

TJV

Time – of Coups and Careers

February 29, 2004 – a date that altered Haitian History.   And ours.

It is the day that a coup was staged in Haiti and the government was overthrown.

It was a big rock thrown in the pond and the ripples went out and out and out from it.  Little did we know the ramifications of that coup at that point.

I’ve got a good bit of storytelling planned about the coup and shortly after that – so I’m not going to get into great detail, but let me lay out a few important facts:
• My two youngest children, whose adoptions were still in process, we’re living in a country that just had its government overthrown by a coup.
• For 6 to 7 weeks, we knew they were safe, but we didn’t know whether their paperwork was still safe and whether the adoption would proceed or if we’d have to start over.
• Originally we were told to expect that our adoptions would be finished in either March or April – possibly into the first part of May. Our plan, at that point, was that our three older girls would stay with Grandparents and we’d go down and get them. After all, the older girls were in school.
• Since the adoptions were delayed, travel dates got pushed back and we weren’t traveling until June. The girls were done with school.

So we took them with us. And they helped with the older kids at the orphanage while we spent time with our two youngest.

Can you imagine helping 53 kids brush their teeth every morning?

Now jump forward with me a few years. We’re in the van (a 7 passenger since, well, you do the math) and we’re coming home on a Friday night after having gone out to eat. Up pops a voice from the back seat……

“I know what I want to do……”

“What?” (Thinking – go to a friend’s house, watch a movie, make ice cream sundaes……)

“I want to go to school and become a nurse and go back to Haiti and help the kids.”

Gulp. Swallow hard and try not to get too choked up.

“That sounds like an awesome plan and I know you can do it.”

In April, that daughter graduated from Grand Valley State University with her Doctorate in Nursing Practice degree. In August, she will be going back to Haiti for her umpteenth time (I’ve lost count) to work with kids who need medical care.

In August, she will also be leaving her position as an RN in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit where she has been for I believe 4 or 5 years and starting to work as a DNP in a large pediatric office on the other side of town.

Now you tell me……

Did the delay in paperwork –
Because of the coup –
Which made it possible for our girls to come to Haiti that first time-
Have an impact on Dr. V’s career plans?

I like to think that when she walked across the stage to become the latest Dr. Vanderwell, God (and the other Dr. Vanderwell) were looking down and smiling and God said to Grandpa, “See, my plan all came together. Now just wait and see what I’ve got planned next…….”

TJV

Time – What Time Is It?

I can’t speak for other countries, but Americans are obessed with time.

What time is it?

How long does it take to get there?

How long is it going to take?

Buy this latest calendar/planner – it’s guaranteed to change your life and make you a multi-millionaire!

(Sarcasm alert)

Let me tell you two stories that changed my view of time. (Second one will come in Part 2).

In 2003, we were in the process of adopting and getting all of the paperwork pulled together. As part of that, we had to get certain documents “notarized” and then “authenticated” by the Haitian embassy. Given as how we weren’t too excited to send important documents by mail, we decided to schedule an appt and take the day off, drive to Chicago, get them authenticated and be back home by supper time.

The night before, I was reviewing the paperwork one last time and realized we had to get one document stamped with the seal of the State of Michigan before the Haitian embassy could authenticate it all. Suddenly our trip got longer – we had to go an hour east before we could go down to Chicago. But we figured out that if we were there, in Lansing Michigan, by the time the office opened, we could still make our appointment on time. If all went well.

If. Two small letters, one big word.

We left home early enough to make it to Lansing on time. In and out, like clock work. Headed straight to Chicago – well, as straight as we could. Traffic was good, all was on time. It was going to be close but all was looking good.

And suddenly, it all changed.

Red lights up ahead.

Almost there – we could see the building. And we’d make it on time!

If the red lights up ahead didn’t block the entire road. It was 4 lanes – give us one or two lanes open, please?

If only. If only the accident had happened a little way down the road. But it didn’t.

And we waited and waited.

And missed our appt. by 20 minutes. “I’m sorry, Mr. ________ left for lunch.” “Okay, can we come back after lunch? We’re sorry we missed our appt. It was because of a car accident.”

So we went and got lunch and came back about 1:30. “Have a seat, they should be back soon.”

And we waited.

And we waited.

And we waited.

Finally, four hours after they left for lunch, they returned. Very friendly, very welcoming, very quick to get things done and we were on our way.

It was our first introduction to Haitian time.

Time where relationships are more important than schedules.

A time that doesn’t worry about technicalities – like how long lunch is.

Over the years, we’ve heard other stories from friends about Haitian time. It was our first exposure to a different way of looking at time.

It also was our first exposure to really truly realizing that when we were entering into international adoption, we were entering into a different culture as well.

In many ways.

What time is it? Yeah, whatever……

Tom

What Matters to Me Part 2

Earlier we had talked about exploring what matters to me and what matters to you.

We talked about it in somewhat general terms – and said that we’ll get more specific.

Let’s get more specific.

To start that out, I want to share with you a statement, I don’t believe it originated with him, that our Senior Pastor uses on a regular basis……

“I’m just one blind beggar trying to help other blind beggars find bread.”

and another one…..

“You are worse off and more undeserving than you could ever imagine.”

and at the same time

“You are more loved and cared for than you could ever possibly deserve.”

Combine those two and what do you have? You have someone who is no better than anyone else trying to lead a group of struggling sinners to see and accept the grace of Jesus.

And once you realize that and truly accept the gift that you’ve been given, how do you respond?

You look around.

You look around and see that there are other blind beggars around you.

You look around, see the blind beggars around you, and say, “Here, let me help you.”

And then you help them find bread.

You don’t just read Bible verses to them.

You don’t just write long posts on Facebook about different Bible passages.

You help them find bread. Physical bread when they are hungry. But more than that.

Meet them where they are. See their need and help meet their need.

““Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
Matthew 25:34-40 NIV
http://bible.com/111/mat.25.34-40.niv

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8 NIV
http://bible.com/111/mic.6.8.niv

That’s what matters to me.

I hope it matters to you too.

Tom

My Dad was a Wise Guy

Many of you know my dad.  Some of you don’t.

He passed away on March 23 of this year after a 15 month battle with pancreatic cancer. Ironically, it was side effects of the treatments that brought him to glory, not the cancer itself. The fact that he had cancer 4 times was a lot of chemo and radiation……

My dad was a Christian Reformed minister. But he was also a teacher, counselor, friend, author, mentor and many other things. He was a wise man.

Okay, and sometimes he was a wise guy too. He had a sense of mischief and a sense of humor that kept all of us on our toes. I could tell you stories for a long time, but that’s not for now – maybe later.

You know how every child goes through the stages of thinking about their parents? First, their father knows everything. Then as they get to be teenagers, they think that their Dad knows nothing. Finally, when they grow up, they realize that yeah, guess what, Dad was pretty smart?

There’s another stage beyond that. Not everyone has a good enough relationship with their dad to get to this stage. It’s the stage when, you’re an adult, and as you are discussing things, often deep things, tough things, important things, your dad admits something to you. “I don’t know.”

Yep, my Dad didn’t know everything. He knew a lot. He made a lot of people’s lives a lot better. I love him dearly, I miss him dearly and I’m grateful for the role he has played in my life and the lives of my family members. I’m also grateful that he was free to admit he didn’t know everything. Why?

When you admit you don’t know everything and encourage discussions with others, you are all better off. You might learn from him or from her.

When you admit you don’t know everything you are providing others with the opportunity to share their opinions. That shows them respect and value and we need more of that in the world.

When you admit you don’t know everything, the person you are talking with is encouraged to discuss and search for truth while feeling important. There is so little of that trust and respect these days.

Admit you don’t know everything. Not only everything about EVERYTHING, but also admit that you probably aren’t the one who knows the most about the subject you’re talking about.

Admit it but keep talking.

And listening.

Really listening. Listening to learn.

You might be surprised what will happen.

Tom