Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy

This journey through life is never boring......

Page 2 of 113

Is Your Social Media a Light?

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:14-16‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Jesus says he’s putting us on a light stand. He’s making us into light bearers. He’s urging us to be generous with our lives (just as He is with his.)

There’s two ways that this can play out in social media that are at opposite ends of the spectrum but have similar end results. Let’s look at them briefly…..

If you are on social media and you let your light shine in the way that someone uses a flashlight to point out all of the mouse droppings and the big scary spiders and the other “stuff” that shows up in a garage that never gets used, then you are letting your light shine – but it is shining to show the faults in other people. It’s shining to expose the skeletons in someone else’s closet. Do you think that’s what God wants us to do?

On the other side, if the social media profile that you share with the public or even with your friends is exactly the opposite, that’s a problem too. If all you show and share is the good things, then you don’t have to keep up with the proverbial Mr. & Mrs. Jones, you are them. You send a picture of them (of you) as someone who has everything right, has no problems, no doubts and their kids all get straight A’s and are the star of their respective athletic team.

You and I both know that is often the way people are portraying themselves and their family on social media. Do you think that’s the light that Jesus wants us to be? Do you think he wants us to send a message that says, “I’m a believer and everything is going great for me?” (With the unspoken message that you can have everything go right too, if only you believe as well as I do).

I don’t think so.

Actually, I know that if Jesus were to be your or my social media advisor, he would probably include a couple of “guidelines:”

1. Stand up for what is right, stand up against what is wrong, but don’t do it in a way that makes it appear you are attacking the person.
2. Share the good things in life – it’s good to know when your cousin who lives in Hong Kong got a promotion. It’s good to know when your Uncle in Florida had a good vacation. It’s good to know when your niece’s graduation went well.
3. But also share the tough parts of life. Be vulnerable. Be transparent. Don’t always answer the “How are you?” With a “doing well” comment if you aren’t.

It does others so much good to see that you are hurting, that your kid is struggling, that work is tough.  Why?  Because they are too.   I can guarantee it.   They have struggles, it’s an imperfect world so we are all struggling with something. 

It’s good to know when good people are not having good times. It’s good to know when your friend in Scotland who used to work in Manchester can tell you that while it hit hard, none of her friends were wounded or killed.

It’s not good that it happens, but it’s good to be able to share our struggles with people who can support us in our struggles.

If Jesus and Mark Zuckerberg had sat down and talked before Facebook came to be, I believe that Jesus would have said, “Mark, if you are going to build Facebook, build it in a way that allows people to connect, to show their good things that happening in life but also to share challenges and be a witness to others about the love that I bring.”

Now that would be a Facebook that would do some real good.

Tom Vanderwell

The Story of Two Chicagos…..

When I started my 20 + year career in banking, I had no idea that the housing and mortgage lending policies that the government had in place would make a place Chicago one of the most diverse cities in the U.S. but also one of the most segregated…..

Distance in Haiti

Did you know that time is a measurement of distance?

In Haiti it is.

It doesn’t matter the number of miles it is between The Apparent Project and the metal workers at Croix de Bouquet. On Sunday, it’s a little over a 30 minute drive. On a Friday afternoon, it’s a 3 hour drive.

Miles don’t matter. Well they sort of do, but they don’t – because distance is a function of time, not of miles.

So, I guess that would be, if you put it into a formula…..

D = m(mt)/S


Is equal to

the mileage. The physical distance you have to travel on the road,

multiplied by

the time of day (expressed in military time)

then divided by

the size of your vehicle

In other words, it will take you less time to go through part of Port Au Prince in a big truck at say 10:00 in the morning than it would to go that same amount of distance at 5:00 in the afternoon in a small car.

Driving in Haiti. I’ve ridden a lot but I haven’t driven.

It’s not for the faint of heart…….


Haitian Rules of the Road

Listed below are an American’s view of the Haitian Rules of the Road:
1. Size matters. If you are driving a big truck you have the right of way over a small truck.
2. Do you know how many people can fit on a “Tap Tap?’ (Haitian taxi – often made out of rather old pick up trucks). One more.
3. Lines on a road rarely exist and are rarely followed.
4. Honking your horn can mean the following, “Ready or not, here I come!” “Hey get out of my way!” “Wadson, my man, how are you doing?” “Open the gate, I’m home.” “Moooove your cow or I’m going to run it over.” There are many other possibilities.
5. Speed bumps are often referred to as “silent police..”
6. Hang on at all times. Or risk a traumatic brain injury.
7. Don’t open a bottle of carbonated beverages in a moving vehicle unless you do it very slowly and carefully.
8. It is impossible to avoid pot holes and rocks but it is good to try anyway.
9. Mufflers and exhaust pipes are optional.
10. If you drive a motorcycle (aka a moto) you can fit all sorts of things on the moto that you couldn’t in the U,.S. I’ve seen as many as 7 people on one moto. I’ve seen a washer, a pole with live chickens tied upside down heading to market, just to name a few (disclaimer – I haven’t seen all of them – some of them have been pictures from friends who live in Haiti)

These are by no means the actual rules of the road in Haiti. But in these, the experience of riding in Haiti, especially riding in the back of a truck, hopefully comes through a bit more.

I’ve seen pictures of many interesting things.

It has very little similarity to driving in the United States.


P.S. Did I mention that because you are outside, you will get to smell of the smells and feel all of the feels? Smell the flowers – and the exhaust. Smell the meat market and the burning charcoal. The list could go on and on…….

The Plane Touches Down

I distinctly remember the first time we came to Haiti. The plane touched down and parked several hundred yards from the terminal. So we got our carry on luggage, go down the steps and walk across the extremely hot concrete to the terminal.

Keep in mind, if you come to Haiti in the summer, you are coming when the temperature is hotter than it is in Miami but not that much. If we travel in July, the high temperature is maybe 20 degrees higher than it is in Michigan.

But if you travel, say in February, when the high temperature in Michigan is maybe in the 20’s, then you are going to be looking at a temperature difference of maybe 70 degrees. Plus we all know how much the air heats up when the rays of the sun are bombarding a concrete parking lot. The “feels like” temperature is probably easily 15 degrees higher than the air temperature is. That’s a big adjustment compared to temperatures in places like Michigan.

In 2003, we would be “herded” into a building (most people in the first world would call it a glorified pole barn.) My recollection of this building is that I would not want to be in it in a hurricane. Once the paperwork and customs and such is done, you would go to the “second” part of the building.

The baggage claim area.

Normal airports have a “conveyor belt” that spins around and the luggage gets put on the conveyor belt and people grab theirs from the belt.

Not in Haiti, not in 2003.

There was a straight conveyor belt and the luggage was being thrown on one end of it and there were employees on the other end who would take it off and stack it in rows on the floor.

How did you find your luggage? You climbed over other people’s luggage, moved it around and dug through it until you found yours. Chaotic to say the least.

Not so any more. In 2017, we pull up to the gate, the door opens and we walk out into a typical airport terminal.

There is air conditioning, it’s organized, all looks relatively new and everything works. The escalators work, the luggage carousel works, it feels like a “normal” airport.

We get our luggage, load it on carts and begin to head for the door. That’s when it happens. We almost immediately are surrounded by men. Most of these men are talking in Creole with a little bit of English mixed in. It’s just a bit intimidating.

“Oh no! Are we getting robbed?” No, they all want to “help” and put a hand on your luggage cart so that you will feel like you have to pay them/tip them. While it is still intimidating, it is significantly better because the “official” cart helpers have a uniform on and because they don’t allow nearly as many of them. A vast improvement over past years.

And then you meet up with your driver. If you are with an organization (like we were with The Apparent Project), then there will be a truck or some sort of vehicle to bring you to your destination.

Our vehicle of choice was a Mitsubishi crew cab pick up with a cage in back. They put suitcases and such on top of the cage and Rico (our security guard) even road up there. Then there were 5 of us who rode in the back and 5 in the cab.

We pulled away from the airport and the real adventure starts……


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