I just heard it said on TV (so you know its true) that these last 70 days – with the pandemic, multiple high profile black murders…… These last 70 days make one of the most turbulent times we’ve been through since the Civil War.
The Civil War – think about it. That’s like 165 years ago.
We’ve seen riots breaking out all over.
I turned on Jimmy Fallon (Tonight Show) and he went through his entire show sharing his feelings on learning that he as a white man was making the world a more difficult place for those who aren’t white.
There have been a lot of people talking about whether rioting was appropriate and whether going to another town to protest was appropriate.
I’m going to quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from “Letters from the Birmingham Jail.” This wont be the last time that I’ll be talking about what Dr. King says. For now……
“The riot is the voice of the unhearded.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Letters from a Burlington Jail) is saying that what you need to do is look at people who make their voice heard in a protest, well the majority of them at least, are rioting because they feel that is the only way they will be heard.
So, when you see a news report about a riot, look at it from the standpoint of the protestors doing that so they can have a voice.
It changes your perspective.
It comes at different times and different places.
It’s never the same for two people – even if they are grieving the loss of the same person.
Some of the times are “somewhat” predictable – like your Dad’s 81st birthday that came 15 days after he went home to be with Jesus.
Like the day your daughter became the 2nd Dr. Vanderwell (http://tomvanderwell.net/2018/04/the-passing-of-the-torch-a-tale-of-two-doctors/)
Some of them are totally unpredictable.
Like when you’re having devotions and there’s something that you aren’t clear on. “I think I’ll ask Dad……”
Oh wait, I can’t ask Dad. I can’t ask him about that Bible passage.
There’s a lot of things I can’t do because there’s a lot of things my Dad can do right now that he couldn’t.
Like sit down and talk with John, the author of Revelations.
And ask him what I was going to ask my Dad. In Revelations 20:11-15, it talks about the dead being judged by what they had done. What does that mean?
Does “what they had done” mean whether or not they chose to believe? Because if it means the works they did, isn’t the thief on the cross totally screwed over? I mean think about it, he was a Christian for maybe 10 minutes before he died?
I think “what they had done” has to mean whether they chose to believe and chose to live for Christ. It’s really the only way any of us have a chance at Heaven – and I believe that’s what John means.
Hey Dad – can you ask him the next time you see him?
In the mean time, any of my minister or seminary friends who want to chime in with your thoughts, please do so.
If you’re on Facebook, you know how Facebook does that “memories” thing where each day it gives you the opportunity to look back on something you did, pictured, wrote about or whatever 1, 2 or however many years ago.
On April 16, 2014 – so 4 years and 3 days ago, I wrote this post about grief – http://tomvanderwell.net/2014/04/grief-its-not-only-about-dying/.
At that point, we were dealing with some big issues – my daughter’s heart condition, the loss of some of her dreams, her changing reality, our changing reality. In addition to that, my career seemed to be at a crossroads – not a cross roads that we wanted or encouraged.
Now we’re in what I’m calling Grief 2.0. What does that entail?
Life – I’ll be writing about him more in the future, but on March 23 of this year, my dad, Howard Vanderwell, passed from this life into eternal life in heaven. He fought pancreatic cancer for 15 months, it was his fourth major battle with cancer, and in the end, it was complications from chemo and radiation (some from previous battles) that took him home.
I wrote a piece on his CaringBridge page that last week called “Painful Peace.” That’s what this last month has been. It’s been grief, it’s been pain but it’s also been peace. Peace that in the end, he went home surrounded by his family and without struggle or pain. Peace that he is now spending time and eternity with the One who he devoted his entire career and life to. Peace that he is spending time with my grandparents and my younger sister.
But it’s also pain. It’s a loss not only of a family member, but a church leader, a supporter, a friend, an encourager and a believer – a believer in Christ but also a believer in his kids and grandkids.
Yesterday, my daughter defended her doctoral project and became the second Dr. Vanderwell in the history of the Vanderwell family.
And the first Dr. Vanderwell wasn’t there to share it with her and with us.
Next week Saturday, she’ll go through the actual graduation. My dad wanted very much to be there – but God said, “Come home, Howie. You’ve been faithful, your time on earth is done.”
And then there’s the grief of medical issues gone “not quite right.” I’ve been battling a condition with the blood vessels in my left neck, shoulder and such called an Arterio Venous Malformation (Google AVM if you want to know more). It’s been a part of my life and my reality for 40 years and I’ve had surgeries and treatments for it numerous times.
January 30, 2018 was the most recent one. The treatment was successful but it brought up some nasty side effects. I lost most of the hearing in my left ear, I am now extremely sensitive to noise, especially loud noise and my left vocal cord is paralyzed so my voice is significantly impacted in terms of volume, clarity and, well, it sounds like I have a nasty case of laryngitis all of the time.
But it’s the same.
There’s also God 2.0
God is still here in our grief.
God is still here in our questions.
God is still here with our changed dreams.
Our unfocused dreams.
God is still here.
And just like we did 4 years ago, when we held faith that God was there (here), we do now too. Some of the same issues carry over – my daughter’s heart condition hasn’t gone away, my career path is in many ways murkier than ever, and then there are new challenges.
God never said believing in Him would be easy.
But he’s here.
In our grief.
In our sorrow.
In our blessings.
In our peace.
And so, I say, “God, I don’t get it. I don’t understand.”
“But I’ve got you.”
And then focus on the peace rather than focusing on the pain.
God is good. (All the time)
All the time. (God is good)
Last week was a hard week.
For many people.
For many communities.
For many families.
Violence ruined lives and crushed families.
Hope was lost and sadness took over.
Teenagers faced the loss of a classmate – at her own hands.
And right before Christmas!?!
Why are things so ugly right now? Why can’t we just enjoy the waiting for Christ?
Enjoy the time of Advent?
Enjoy the family time? The church services that lift us with joy?
Because this is not our home.
This is not where we belong.
This is a sad and imperfect world.
A sin filled world. A violence filled world. An anger filled world.
I shared a story on Facebook that a black art professor told of his encounter with the police. Bam! Anger, frustration, discontent and racism blow up all over in reaction to his telling his perception of what happened to him.
Christmas has the potential of being something extra special this year. In a year and a week and a month filled with hate, violence and discontent, Jesus comes and shares light and love.
In a year filled with terror, Jesus comes and says, “Peace.”
In a year filled with sadness and heartbreak, Jesus weeps with his people.
In a year and a week and a month filled with so much anger, so much violence, so much political stupidity, we have the opportunity to be God’s light.
To spread the news.
To be the shepherds and share the good news that even in the violence and the sadness and the anger, God is.
God is coming.
God is here.
May we cling to that fact even when others try to sabotage that joy, sabotage that happy.
They can’t touch my Jesus and even through the tears, they can’t touch the joy of knowing Christ is coming.
Christ is here.
So, yesterday I shared with you some thoughts about grief and the struggles that I and my family are facing right now. If you didn’t read it, you can read it at http://tomvanderwell.net/2014/04/grief-its-not-only-about-dying/.
An amazing thing has happened since then. No, the grief is still there, the struggles are still there, but so many people have reached out, God has spoken in many ways and has said, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this. And I’ve got that. Oh and the other thing that might come up, I’ve got that too.”
Have the troubles gone away? No. Is the path clearer? No it’s not.
But God has stepped up through many of you and said, I’ll lift the cloud, I’ll clear the path, I’ll show you the way. Just trust me and wait for me.
So, this week, this coming Good Friday and Easter and even going beyond that, we wait.
God’s got Good Friday.
God’s got Easter.
He’s got the kids in Haiti.
He’s got me and you in his hands.
Thank you for showing the grace and mercy of our heavenly Father.
Thank you for waiting with me.