Vander's Thoughts

Vander's Thoughts

Monday, May 23, 2016


[In memory of Geraldine Vander Dussen]

My mom loved dirt. Now let me be clear, my mom didn’t like dirt in the house because dirt inside a Dutch home is a really bad thing. Growing up you never wanted to hear mom ask, “who tracked dirt in here?” because you knew you were trouble if you were the one who got dirt in the house. But my mom loved the dirt that she worked with.

Dirt was a sanctuary for my mom and that is where she taught me to love it too. She taught me to work in it in the cool of the morning when the dirt released it’s warmth into my hands. She taught me to turn the dirt and to make sure it always was prepared to enrich whatever was planted in it. She taught me to water and moisten dirt regularly so that roots could grow deep and plants could grow strong. And the most important aspect of dirt was to keep it weed free, because weeds rob other plants of life. My mom loved dirt because she discovered the beauty that emerges from dirt in the form of a flower or the flavors of vegetables, even the shade a tree provides is only possible because of dirt. Mom loved dirt because she loved God.

God loves dirt too. Dirt is the foundation of life. God used dirt to form us out of His great creation. God wants to enrich our lives with His presence. God instructs us to keep our lives saturated with His words to grow us deep and strong. God reminds us to keep our lives free from the weeds that rob us all of life. And when we love dirt like He does and the way mom did, we see the beauty and brilliance of life the way God intended us to live it.  

That’s why Mom was the perfect reflection of a life that loved dirt. She radiated the love and compassion of Christ through all that she did. She brought a fragrance and a radiance into this world because of her love for God. A fragrance and life that will be deeply missed, but will resonate through the lives she touched with her love. And because mom let Christ take care of the dirt that she “tracked” into her life, she is planted firmly in the soil of eternity. And for that reason l too love dirt, it gives me great hope for today and for all eternity.

I hope you learn to love dirt like my mom taught me to love dirt.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


I knew I shouldn't have done it, but I did and then I couldn’t stop. My son Chad was just starting an episode of The Walking Dead and I sat for “just a minute” while I finished my sandwich. The sandwich was good, but the show was better and the next thing I knew I was hooked watching the potential affects of a Zombie Apocalypse. Since then I have Netflixed all the way through Season 3 and feel like I'm becoming a Zombie trying to cram in one more episode before I go to bed.

The big question I have been pondering is, what's the draw? I mean why am I so compelled to watch humans fighting for their lives against Zombies and against other humans who don't want to become Zombies themselves? Frankly I'm not entertained by the gruesome realities of flesh eating Zombies (although there are some pretty cool scenes). What I have discovered that's drawing me into the story are people fighting for a reason to have hope in a hopeless world. Every episode is a discovery of what happens when people come together in a community that embraces life.

It reminds me of story told long ago about a people who lived in a perfect world in perfect community until something went horribly wrong. It became infected with the sin virus and that virus brought death. The virus brought death even while they were living due to the corruption of all that was good. There was a way to avoid the corruption of the virus by relying on a the work of a selfless Man, who gave up His life so that they could live. These people still exist today and gather in community regularly to  escape the “Zombie” effect by remembering the work of the selfless Man and learning to live more like Him. And the more they all learn to live this way, the more their hope increases in spite of the devastation around them.

Sound familiar?

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” - Ephesians 5:14

But we all know that Zombies aren’t real, right?

Thursday, August 21, 2014


People are just different. The more I engage people the more I realize this obvious truth. We all live and interact with all sorts of people who are different from us and different from each other. Whether its their race, their culture, their wiring, their opinions, their passions or if they like their coffee iced or brewed, these things make us unique and at the same time can set us against each other.

I can’t help but notice in the news what these difference are causing to happen in our world. The Gaza conflict, the persecutions in Iraq, even the recent riots in Ferguson are evidence that the world is not handling these differences very well. The problem seems a world away until it hits home. And when it actually affects our life, that’s when it really hits home.

Not too long ago I pulled up on an accident scene that just happened. I pulled over to make sure everyone was alright and next thing I know I’m being accused of being a racist just because I have a shaved head. I think I’m starting to understand the depths and the challenge behind Rodney King’s infamous words, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

I believe when we focus on the differences in each other is sets us against each other, but when we do our best to embrace and understand the differences, that’s when we begin to work through them. If we always expect people to be just like us, no matter what we are dealing with, we are setting ourselves up for frustration. It could be as simple as disagreeing on which restaurant to eat at or as difficult as deciding a strategic direction for an organization, embracing our differences is the starting point to changing our world.

Even Jesus never forced anyone to change, but by embracing people in spite of their differences, He gave them a reason to change. That’s why He is the great example for all of us to “just get along” and change our world.

So let me challenge you, like I am challenged every day, to embrace those who are different than you and give them a reason to change themselves. Imagine if the whole world started to do this, what would the news talk about?

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,for you are all one in Christ Jesus. - Galatians 3:28

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit my daughter Nicole at her college. While there she asked if I could help her with a project and go with her to interview some homeless people. At first I don’t want to too and I didn't want her to either, but I realized this was something God had laid on her heart to do, so of course I gave in. I’m not even sure if it is PC anymore to call people who live on the streets homeless, but that’s where they were at so that’s where we went.

Nicole offered them some water to break the ice and then asked them if she could ask them a few questions about their current situation.  She had a series of questions to ask them in regards to how they got to this position in their life, but the kicker questions was asked at the end. She asked each of them if they had any regrets in their lives. Talk about a dangerous question! One would almost expect it to induce denial, anger, or both. Each time she came to that question I was ready to grab Nicole’s arm and run her off to safety just in case, but I was surprised by the sadness that this question evoked.

I distinctly remember two gentlemen’s answers that really impacted me. They first was from David who found himself homeless after being laid off a number of times and just gave up trying. His regret was never pursuing becoming a pilot. He had always loved airplanes and never did anything about it. You could see the sadness in his face as he thought of what could have been. The other response, which was the most emotional, was from Clark. Clark had been hardened by the streets. He had a college education and at one point had a really good career, so it really wasn't clear why Clark made a decision to drop out of society until he answered the regret question. He simply said, “I wish I would have never left my wife.” Not only did his response evoke sadness in him, but I felt overwhelming compassion like never before for a person on the streets.  An abandoned dream and an abandoned relationship had left both of these men broken.  

I’m sure we have all done things in our lives that we regret, things that we wish would have done differently or wouldn't have done at all, but we don’t have to live with regret. Regret stops the moment we do something about it. If you don’t your regret with get the best of you. God wants to help us overcome our regrets and get on with the best life possible.

“But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets and end up on a deathbed of regrets.” – 2 Corinthians 7:10

Do you have a dream? What are you doing to pursue it? Do you have a hurt in your life? What are doing to heal it? Move on your idea. Pursue your dream. Say you’re sorry. Rebuild the relationship. Don’t wake up one day with a life filled with regret because regret is a painful place to lay your head every day.

Maybe it’s time to stop tucking regret in with you every night when you go to bed. 

Monday, January 13, 2014


While on my way to work recently I had the car behind me uncomfortably close to my rear bumper. Some call it tail-gating some call bumper-riding all I know is its annoying. I don’t know why this guy had to drive so close to me but for some reason that I can’t explain, the closer he got to me the slower my car seemed to go. It’s almost like I purposely (unconsciously of course) lifted my foot off the accelerator. Regardless, what happened was that I found myself looking out my review mirror more than my front windshield. Because of this I made a discovery, that looking back is one of the most dangerous things we can do when we are moving forward. While looking behind me I almost rear-ended the car in front of me!

Makes me think about why what has happened in our past, so often, has such a profound effect on our future. Maybe it’s because we start thinking so much about our past that we fail to see what we have to look forward to. Sure we have all had things that have happened in our life that we regret, but what good does it do us when we are always thinking backward. The best moments of my life had nothing to do with my past, but had everything to do with recognizing the moment I was in and taking it for what is was. Maybe it’s time for the past to be just that, the past and embrace the future that God has provided for each of us through His grace.

Next time your past keeps you from focusing forward, try and remember what Jesus says about the life that God calls us to look forward to everyday….

Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.” – Luke 9:62

Thursday, July 25, 2013


In light of the latest sports scandal involving Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s) and cheating, I am compelled to write something that was on my heart since discovering Lance Armstrong had cheated his way to 7 Tour De France titles. The other day as I was watching Sportscenter and it was announced that Major League Baseball’s 2011 MVP Ryan Braun was suspended for using illegal PED’s I was crushed. Here is a guy who last year you rooted for as he defended his innocence and assured baseball fans everywhere that he was wrongly accused, only to discover that a year later he was only out to protect himself and hide behind someone else’s supposed ineptness. Now here he stands, just like Lance Armstrong, exposed and left to excuse his behavior and ask for our forgiveness.

This world will always be filled with people who make mistakes, fall short, and do stupid things, but I’m a little tired of people who won’t own-up to them. I know I've made my share of mistakes, missteps, and messes and I’m quite sure I’m not finished. I can even understand someone trying to find an edge and unintentionally crossing the line and even getting caught up in it and not being sure how to get out of it, but when you’re called out on it, be honest.  Come clean. Be straight-up. And in borrowing and tweaking a term that Lance Armstrong made famous, LIVEHONEST.

The strongest people in the world aren't those who never mess up, the strongest and best in the world are those who shoulder the truth no matter how difficult.  

Proverbs 10:9 - Honesty lives confident and carefree, but Shifty is sure to be exposed.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Recently I was hoping to grab a quick bite to eat at one of my favorite restaurants, but when I got there the line was out the door. I was disappointed by the crowd there because I didn't have time to wait and eat my favorite tacos. At the same time it affirmed in me that I wasn't the only one who thought highly of those tacos.
Crowds are interesting. When we see a crowd we avoid them, but at the same time crowds draw our attention to things we weren't aware of before. So in that sense, we both avoid crowds and follow the crowd at the same time. What a paradox. If it wasn't for crowds I probably wouldn't know as much about this world as I would have without them, so crowds aren't all bad. But then again crowds can be anything but good. When the crowd makes us do things we wouldn't normally do, that’s bad. And when the crowd makes us lose our individual identity, that’s bad as well.

To crowd or not to crowd?

Jesus dealt with crowds a lot. During His ministry as He had more and more impact in this world, He always drew a crowd, which in turn created bigger crowds. And because of that, the crowd became both a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. If it weren't for the crowd a lot of individuals would have missed hearing the good news, but at the same time if it weren't for the crowd a lot of individuals would have been able to hear His message of hope. Another paradox!

Crowds contain two types of people, those who are there because they like what happening and those who are there because they just like being a part of it.

When it comes to His crowd, which one are you?