Tag Archives: Concern

“When I Could Stand it No Longer….”

For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith.
1 Thessalonians 3:5 (NIV)

Wendy and I had a moment of nostalgia the other night as we watched The Man in the High Castle. The show is set in the early 1960s. The phone rang in one of the scenes and the character answered the classic rotary wall phone. It was a “private call” so she walked through the kitchen door into the dining room. She was able to do this because the phone had a “long cord.”

Oh my gosh!” Wendy exclaimed just as I was thinking the same thing. “Do you remember the ‘long chord?'”

Back in the day our house had one phone line. For a while we had only phone on the wall in the kitchen, but my parents eventually added another wall phone extension in the basement. There were rotary phones on which the handset had to be attached to the base unit. If you didn’t want everyone in the house to hear your conversation you had to have this 20′ curly cord that would allow you to walk into another room and shut the door.

Suddenly I was back in my childhood hanging around by the phone in the excruciating wait for a girl to call me. I can remember the agony that came with desperately wanting that phone to ring, and for it to be her, so that I could pull the ‘long chord’ on the basement phone to the back of our storage room and have conversation in hushed tones. And as we talked, I would pray that my parents or siblings would not pick up the phone in the kitchen and totally embarrass me while I was talking to the girl on whom I had a serious crush.

In this morning’s chapter I noticed that Paul twice uses a phrase in talking about his love for his Thessalonian friends: “When I could stand it no longer….” I began to ask myself how I could relate to that sentiment of being so emotionally invested in relationship that silence and the unknown create anxiety. Those moments waiting by the phone were an easy memory, but there are others. It’s the experience of having your children half a world away and knowing that they are struggling, but there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s those moments when tragedy strikes a dear friend who lives far away and you feel so terribly helpless.

This morning in the quiet I’m struck by two distinct thoughts. First I take solace of knowing that Paul, who is often spiritualized by believers to the point of being morphed into superhuman status, also struggled with the very human emotion of anxiety and fear to the point he could “stand it no longer.” The normal humanity I see in “heroes of faith” remind me to have a little grace with myself.  The second thought is simply the intense love and concern Paul shows towards his friends he left back in the Greek seaport. It reminds me of yesterday’s thoughts, that Paul’s ministry was not an impersonal evangelistic tour, but a life sharing mission that bore the fruit of deep relationship.

I’m left thinking this morning of family and friends with whom I have not conversed for a time; Those who my heart wonders about. Maybe today’s a good day to wander down to the dock and make a call or two. I can do that. I no longer require a 500′ “long cord “.

featured photo courtesy kris krüg via Flickr

A Teacher’s Love

 

GDR "village teacher" (a teacher tea...
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Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.. Galatians 4:7 (NLT)

Several years ago my mother was greeting at church and a woman asked her if she was Tom Vander Well’s mother. “I am,” my mother answered. The woman told my mother that she had been my first grade teacher and she wanted my mother to say hello to me. I was blown away to know that Mrs. Avery would remember me after all those years. I loved her. She changed my life by giving me a love for school and for learning. I made a point of visiting her a few weeks later to tell her that and to thank her. Sitting in her living room, she pulled out my old class photo and began naming each student and talking about each one as if we were the previous year’s class. When she told me that she prayed for each of her students, I wasn’t surprised.

I’ve been teaching a class this fall on creativity. It’s been several years since I’ve taught, and I’ve been amazed to remember how intensely I feel for those in my class. In my morning quiet times I find myself thinking of each one, naming them individually and praying for them. During the week I feel concern. I wonder how their week is going and what God is doing in their lives through the assignments and material.

I identified with Paul when in today’s chapter he described his feelings of responsibility for those he taught in Galatia as labor pains. On one hand it seems a bit of an odd metaphor because, face it, neither Paul nor I can really understand true labor pains. I think Paul used the metaphor because as a teacher you realize that something is being birthed in your students. There are new thoughts, new perceptions, and there is new life emerging when God’s Spirit is at work. And that is the key. God and the students are doing that hard work. I’m just a facilitator and conduit. Nevertheless, when I’m involved in the facilitation of that process, I experience a love and commitment to those in my charge.

Don’t Worry, It’s on the List

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 56

You keep track of all my sorrows.
    You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
    You have recorded each one in your book.
Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

Lists. My life is full of lists. Wendy is the Queen of the Lists. Her royal highness manages the Vander Well realm via a series of lists. There is the white board calendar list which used to list our daughters schedules, but now lists our evening meals for the week. There is the kitchen grocery list that is updated any time you use the last of something in the kitchen. There is the Playhouse list of what needs to go to the lake. The other day I was asked to print the rehearsal list for the theatre. I have a work list, a honey-do list, and a list of people to call. I have a list of chapters we’ve covered on this chapter-a-day journey. There’s a list of DVDs we own, a “must see” movie list, and a list of movies in our queue. My computer holds mailing lists, show lists, and cast lists.

This post is beginning to feel like Dr. Seuss.

Big list. Little list. List, list, list.
How many lists must I insist
on managing all that life persists
to throw my way as I exist?

In the days when David wrote the lyric of today’s psalm, kings and rulers in authority were known to be keepers of lists and records. Because the written word was rare and reserved almost exclusively for rulers, it was a big deal for Kings to have anything that was written down read to them. Sometimes, if the king had a bout of insomnia for example, he would ask his servants to read from the records, chronicles and lists. In doing so, he would sometimes run across an item on the list on which he would act. There are at least two very clear references of God using circumstances like this to fulfill His purposes in the old stories:

In the story of Esther: “That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him.” (the chapter-a-day entries for this chapter from 2009 and from 2012)

In the story of Josiah: “Then Shaphan the secretary informed [King Josiah], ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.” (the chapter-a-day entry for this chapter)

When David’s lyrics refer to his tears being stored up and his troubles recorded, the image he is creating is that of his lament being written on God’s royal record. It is chronicled and will not be forgotten by God who sits on the throne. God sees. God knows. It will not be forgotten. It’s written on the list.

We all go through periods of life when we feel alone. Our troubles seem so huge. Our prayers seem to hit the ceiling and bounce back. We wonder if God is listening. We question whether God even cares.

Today, I’m reminded that God says the number of my days is already accounted for in His records. My name is recorded in His book. Even the decreasing number of hairs on my head is on a list somewhere in heaven’s royal archive. Certainly, I am not abandoned despite the intensity of my feelings to the contrary. My troubles are not forgotten. My cares are known.

 

Chapter-a-Day 1 Peter 5

from hqas via Flickr

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

The other night we were visiting with friends at their house. One of their children was angry over a host of childish issues and, while we were there, he decided to run away from home in anger. Wendy and I love this child and have watched him grow up. He’s like a member of our own family. It was interesting for us to watch him stew in his own misery convinced that nobody cared for the injustice of his life. We commended his parents later for not overreacting to his very public act of packing in front of guests. I especially appreciated when his mother lovingly reminded him to grab his pillow and a sleeping bag because he’d probably need it sleeping out in the cold that night.

I love 1 Peter 5:7 for it’s direct simplicity. I have leaned on this verse countless times, reminding myself of it over and over and over again as I’ve gone through particularly difficult stretches of life’s journey. There are so many times in life when we feel alone and isolated in whatever situation we find ourselves. “Life is unfair. Life is unjust. God doesn’t care. In fact, maybe there’s no God at all if this is the way life is!”

1 Peter 5:7 is an antidote for moments of personal crisis. I have found two distinct encouragements in the verse. First, I need to act to cast my cares and worries on God. This requires me not to keep my destructive thoughts and emotions to myself but to take them to God. I have talked to God, I have screamed at God, I have whispered desperate prayers, and I have wept before God like a baby. The act of physically and audibly getting your cares out is cathartic and healing.

The unburdening of soul through conversation with God makes room for the second part of 1 Peter 5:7, which is the important reminder that God cares. I believe this to be true, though there have been very specific moments along the journey that I’ve seriously questioned it. A petulant child even in an adult body, I have more than once fussed at Father God about His injustice and uncaring attitude as I spiritually packed my bag to run away.

After giving his parents and guests a good dose of teen-aged attitude coupled with the silent treatment while having a snack for the road, our young friend must have thought better of his decision to run away. Without saying a word he headed to bed rather than the front door. Someday he will look back and realize how silly it was allowing a momentary feeling of injustice to let him feel so uncared for when the larger truth of the matter was he was raised in a loving home with two parents who care for him more deeply than he could imagine.

And so this runaway has found the same to be true with Father God. Once I unburden my soul and get out my anger, fear, anxiety and pain I am ready for a dose of truth; God loved me so much that He sacrificed His Son for me. He cares for me and loves me more deeply than I can possibly imagine despite my refusal to see it in the moment.

Today, as I write this post, I am able to see it clearly and am grateful for all the times Father God has smiled quietly to Himself as He lovingly reminded me not to forget my pillow and my sleeping bag

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 45

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“These are the words of God, the God of Israel, to you, Baruch.” Jeremiah 45:2 (MSG)

The world’s problems seems so huge. It’s easy to feel small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Buck up, Baruch.

Today’s little chapter stands as testimony to Jesus’ words, which would be uttered some 500 years after Jeremiah dictated his prophecies to Baruch. In the midst of the vastness of the universe and the epic scale of the world’s issues, God still cares intimately for each lowly individual, each hair on your head, every sparrow that falls, along with every grain of sand.

God cares for you.

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