Seeing God in the Cafeteria

(Note, this actually happened on May 30 – it’s just taken me a few days to get it to the point of feeling it is ready to share). A few weeks ago, I wrote about a concert that the Potter’s House Gospel Choir gave. It gave me hope. You can read that here.

This morning, I saw something else.

I saw promise.

I saw promises made and promises that came true.

Come with me.

It’s about 7:10 and the principal and a few other staff are putting the finishing touch on lining up chairs in the cafeteria. There’s a great big circle of chairs.

Hmmm, this doesn’t look like the prayer services that I’ve been at before.

A few of the seniors come in, a few parents do as well. No one is quite sure what to do. But the kids know and they start sitting down in the circle of chairs.

Before long all of the chairs are filled by students. Around the circle, parents and teachers are just kind of wandering, talking amongst themselves. Sharing relief that their student made it, sharing the happiness of an accomplishment, sharing stories of growth (and stories of white water rafting and baseball games at 2:00 in the morning in the Indianapolis airport).

Little by little over the next 10 to 15 minutes, people drift in. And then all of the chairs are full and the principal welcomes all of us to a time of prayer. He opens with a prayer and then says that for the next 30 minutes or so, it’s time to pray for the seniors.

And then it happened.

It started with just a few quiet prayers. And it grew.

And it grew.

Parents praying for their own kids.

Parents praying for their kids friends.

Parents praying for the kids of their friends.

Teachers praying for every student.

Teachers from the middle school came over to pray for these “their” students.

Administrators praying over every student individually.

Prayers of thanks for what God has done for them. And through them.

Prayers of support as they venture into the “unknown.”

Giving thanks and celebrating God’s promises kept.

Claiming God’s promises into the future.

And you could feel the atmosphere shift in the cafeteria. It wasn’t the lunch room at school.

It was a place of worship. And God was doing something special.

He was saying, “These are my children. I’ve got them.”

“I promise.”

Just as the parents were feeling the emotions of a milestone, whether easy or hard, God was saying, “Have hope for the future. I’ve got them.”

Just as the seniors were feeling the mixed emotions that come at a time like this, God was saying, “Have hope, my child, I’ve got you. Trust me and hold on to my promises”

I’ve seen hope and I’ve seen promise.

And I see a class of high school graduates who have both and have them for such a time as this.

God is good, all the time.

TV

The Coup – The Fear of the Unknown

(Some more of my thoughts on the night of February 29, 2004 as a Dad who had two kids in an orphanage in a country that was just had it’s government overthrown in a coup.) 

 

So, that Sunday night we went to bed.

Just like thousands of other people in West Michigan.

Except we weren’t like them.

We weren’t any better or stronger or more charitable. We were still just ordinary people.

But we had a great big old “unknown” sitting in the bottom of our stomaches.

What does this mean? Are our kids safe? (We knew they were at that moment – but what about the future?) Was this going to turn into a long civil war?

What are we going to do if the new government declares the paperwork from the old government to be worthless?

What if they close adoptions? How will we ever get our kids home?

So many unknowns.

I should have gone to bed with one big truth rather than so many unknowns. But I didn’t do that very well at that point.

So I went to bed worried.

What’s that big thing?

No matter what, MY GOD IS BIGGER.

He’s bigger than an overthrown government.

He’s bigger than potentially lost paperwork.

He’s bigger than all of that.

He’s bigger than what you’re struggling with today.

He’s bigger than what I’m struggling with today.

He’s bigger and He’s got this.

But it’s hard to step back and say, “okay, God, it’s you.”

None of us do that very well.

Not nearly enough of us do it at all.

Looking back on things from 14 years later, I can tell you a couple of things about that time:
⁃ God took a very confusing, very stressful and difficult time and did some very awesome things in that time (Read the post “Time – of Coups and Careers”)—
⁃ We’ve been blessed with some friendships that have stayed in place since those days, 14 years ago.
⁃ Through the publicity that Haitian adoptions received at that time, I know that hearts and minds were touched and opened to helping kids who need someone to stand up for them.
⁃ There were many things that happened after the earthquake in 2010 where we could look back and draw on what we learned and what we did after the coup to help us at the time of the earthquake. I’m not talking people who were on the ground in Haiti, I’m talking about people in the United States who were attempting to help or who were adoptive parents with children who were “stuck” in Haiti. But more on that later.

The long night of worry, of fear of the unknowns, came to an end. And the sun came up on Monday morning……..

TJV

Looking back at 2018?  No thanks!

I had a discussion with a friend he other day and we both agreed that if we had stood talking on January 1, 2018 and knew what 2018 would bring, we would  have…..well, we would had a hard time.

I don’t want to look at 2018 any more, though I have a feeling it will be a year that will be hard to forget.

John Pavlovitz is an author who I don’t like but I respect.   Why don’t Iike him?  Well, let’s just that I think sometimes the tone of what he says is a bit…… never mind.   Why do I respect him?   He is clearly thought, well written, rational and thorough in his beliefs and ideas.   I don’t always believe the same way but I always find myself better off for having read him.

Below are two exerpts that he wrote just before the end of 2018.   I hope you’ll take some time and read those and maybe even go on over and check out what the rest of the article has to say.

I’m going to look back at 2018 and remember the Dad that went home to glory.   I’m not going to look back at some of the other things.   As our minister said on Sunday, if God woke you up and brought you here today, he must have a plan for you.   Let’s try to see what it might be.

TJV

 

Be a story-learner………. When you sit across from someone and actually listen to them, you’ll realize how rich and complex and like your own, their stories are. You may not end up liking them better afterward or agree with them any more, you’ll just know them more.

……    

Source: 2018 Was One Long Decade

”Quit Trying to Steal the Pen” by Toby Mac

“God is still writing your story.
Quit Trying to Steal the Pen”

Quit – Stop – don’t do it.

Quit trying – It doesn’t usually work, but you can try.

Steal – it doesn’t really belong to you.

The Pen – the thing that makes your story the work of art that it is.

So what does that leave you with?

God holds the pen.

God is the artist in charge of writing our stories.

If we attempt to steal the pen from the artist, we’re going to mess up the story.

If we attempt to steal the pen, we’re messing up God’s work of art – which is you and me.

Don’t mess up the Master’s work of art. Instead, ask the Master, “how can I help you write the story?

But if you do ask that, be prepared for what he might ask you to write about.

It will be a great story if you write it with God’s lead…..

Tom

The Thing About Having Kids

Well, it’s not really THE thing.

It’s more like, no wait, it’s not even A thing.

But it is a thing. It’s a thing that is fun. A thing that can be really enjoyable.

A thing that can help them learn and frankly, help the parents learn too.

I’m talking about bedtime stories. Reading bedtime stories to your kids, with your kids.

Acting out “Ten in the Bed” with two little girls and 9 stuffed animals.

Reading the entire 7 books of the Harry Potter series with one kid on each side of me over a 2 year time span.

And then there’s Doctor Seuss. I miss reading Dr. Seuss. “Oh the Places You’ll Go…..” (I’ve often thought that’s could be a good speech for a graduation ceremony).

Who can forget “Thing 1 and Thing 2?”

And the Cat in the Hat who always picks up his playthings? (Hint hint….)

But the story by Dr. Seuss that stuck with me most is the story of the Lorax.

The Lorax is a sad story. It’s a story of nature ruined by greed. It’s a story of manipulations and misunderstandings. It’s a story that parallels much of our world.

The story ends with nature in trouble. Pollution is contaminating everything.

And there’s this one old “guy.” He was there since the beginning. He protested the growth of the factories. He complained about the sick animals and the animals that had to leave to find a place to eat and water to drink.

When there was nothing left, he levitated through the clouds and left a marker behind with one word on it……

“Unless”
The story ends with the Onceler telling the Lorax’s story to two kids and he ends with “Unless.”

But this time he completes the sentence……

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s Not.”

Someone like you.

Someone like me.

Cares – not a little but a lot.

Unless – if we don’t care, things won’t get better. If we do care, things will get better.

A call for action from Dr. Seuss. A call for social justice. For caring.

That’s one of the things that I’ve learned and seen time and time again. It’s not the big companies that are going to make the world a better place (even though Coca Cola would like you to think they can). It’s the people.

You and me.

I don’t like the way things are right now. Too much pain, too many people struggling, too many people angry and hurting.

Whether it’s immigration or education or racism or taxes or politics or abuse or trauma or….. or………, find something that matters to you. Find something that you care about that isn’t the way you think it should be and care about it.

Do something. Make things better.

It’s the Lorax Iniative.

And we can all learn from a children’s story about how to make the world a better place.

TJV

P.S. Does anyone else remember the thing that they found in the park and what they named him?