Tuesday, October 4, 2016

When Your Child Becomes a Global Pariah

If you're a parent, you know the feeling.

Your kid does something so embarrassing, you just want to hide. You know you did the same to your parents, but that doesn't help. There's nothing quite like it.

But what if your child's transgression is not a private matter? What if your child not only does something awful, but the deed is exposed to your community, or your child is foolish enough to post it online as well, and spark the next whirlwind of global condemnation?

What if your son or daughter becomes the social media poster child for everything that is evil and wrong with "this generation"?

You may have seen the recent video of a teen abusing a dead dog's corpse, and you may have read the predictable pile-on from outraged strangers pointing out the obvious and heaping shame on someone they'll probably never know.

The video is truly awful, and the young man's actions beyond the pale.


How in the world could you possibly respond as a parent?

How would you manage to address your child's obvious failure, as well as their intense vulnerability, at the same time? How would you juggle your horror at your child's conduct, along with your disgust at the bloodlust of the hordes calling for your child's head?

How you respond might depend on what your child has already seen from you:

How do you respond when it's someone else's kid who does something awful?

How do your kids see you respond to the nuisances and outrages of your own life, as well as the many grievances shared online by your friends all the time?

How have your children heard you speak about those who have wronged you? About strangers who have done terrible things, at least terrible things that you haven't done yourself?

Does your child have reason to believe there is grace for an offender?

Has your son or daughter seen someone receive love in the aftermath of error, even when that error brought devastating consequences? Do your kids know that someone can be sent to prison, alienate their spouse, fail their children, lose their career, destroy their health, squander their fortune, offend the most basic human sensibilities, ruin their reputation, even become the next You Tube pariah...and still be so important to God that He has already paid the price to redeem them?

Does your child know a Lord who spoke the word that made powerful men drop the rocks they were ready to throw at a woman so ashamed she might have welcomed an untimely death?

If not, what will your kids expect to experience someday when this happens to them?        

One day it won't be a stranger exposed for some terrible deed.

One day it won't be so simple.

One day no one will understand the whole story.

One day you'll want nothing more than for someone to be kind, even in the face of an offense no one can overlook.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What's the Word for That?

What do you call the fight that never happened?

We need a word for that.

The argument that never took place, because someone bit their tongue and let the moment pass.

The confrontation that might have happened, but didn't, because someone decided it wasn't worth it, and turned out to be right.

The horn that wasn't honked.

A snarky comment left unposted.

The middle finger that kept its seat.

A fist left unthrown.

The war never started.

Vengeance left unsought.

An empty space in time, left unfilled by an offense no one remembers.

Thank God for these...whatever you call them.

A married father strapped into a hospital bed, dropped on his head by a bar bouncer, wishes more than anything for one of these...whatever you call them.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Beaten-Up Book

Let me be a book you can't give away,

Marked up from saying things that meant something to you,

Carried everywhere you went for a season,

Pulled in and out of your bag a thousand times,

Wet from the beach,

Wrinkled from the sun drying me out,

Sand somehow still stuck inside,

Reminding you of good things, giving you hope and an advance on sweet memories to come,

Making you glad you really knew me, and didn't just download the Kindle version.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Running from Nothing

"What's the worst that could happen?"

When's the last time you asked this?

For me, this is how I wrestle with a decision of whether to do something risky, or a challenge to convince someone else that a risk is worth taking.

But after reading this story, and dwelling on our new American normal of constant fear of violent death, this question is starting to mean something else. It's hard to fathom a stampede of terrified people trampling an old couple in mass desperation to get away from...nothing.

Yes, it's easy for me to say. No, I wasn't there. No, I didn't hear the noise or the rumors of a shooter. No, I can't say for sure how I would have reacted.


This is what we have become?

Are we really so afraid of losing this earthly life?

Is a violent death really the worst thing that could happen to us? Falling from a cliff? Going down in a plane crash? Drowning? Being burned alive? Buried alive? Being beheaded with a knife by a jihadi? Shot by a sagging-britches gang member who was aiming for someone else? Caught without your trusty gun, and choked to death by an intruder?

Losing your loved ones to such horrors?

Public humiliation, career suicide, financial ruin? Dire illness, betrayal?

Being stripped of everything we hold dear in this life?

What do you really consider to be the worst thing that could ever happen to you?

And when was the last time you considered these words:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or sword? Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

How easy is it to read these words and still never consider actually facing the painful fates listed by Paul, who knew suffering better than we ever will? How easy is it to forget that many of our ancestors in the faith have met a dreadful end to this earthly life? (Hebrews 11:35-38)

Pain, suffering, tragedy, injustice, and terror are not the worst things that could ever happen to you.

The worst thing that could ever happen to you would be to live this life apart from Christ, grasping hold of this vapor like it's all you'll ever have, clawing back at everything that hurts or scares you, and then dying anyway, only to have Jesus tell you He never knew you.

No, your time on earth is not a cheap thing to be foolishly risked or thrown away for no reason. But it's also not the whole story.

Don't spend it running from nothing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

An Ugly Mirror

Let me be a messed-up old mirror: spotted, dingy, and cracked. 

Clear enough to leave no doubt what you are, but clearly not anyone to talk.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

"I Kept It"

I was just talking to our boys about giving at church, and remembered a story my grandfather once told me when I was a kid.

I don't remember now how the story came up, but Grandpa Dominguez told me that when he was a kid, and his mother gave him money to put in the offering at church, he used to pocket the money to use for his own purposes. 

In Grandpa's words, "I kept it."

Frightened at even hearing this story told, let alone pondering the risk involved in Grandpa's boyhood caper, I asked whether he ever got caught. Yes, Grandpa said, he did, and he got in trouble for it, but I don't remember now what exactly happened, or whether Grandpa even elaborated any further.

But still...

Imagining this scene from what would likely have been the early 1930's, somewhere in rural Southern California, and putting myself in my great-grandparents' shoes, I wonder what they thought of their son when they discovered his little scam. Did they worry about his character? Did they second-guess themselves as parents? Did they have trouble trusting him again?

Of course, it's possible the answer is none of the above, as these were poor people, likely more concerned with their children's daily bread than their children's weekly tithe, but I can't help but wonder if, in that moment, Mrs. Dominguez asked herself where she had gone wrong.

I don't know how long my great-grandmother lived, but I hope she lived long enough to see my grandfather become the person I remember, who lived a life of decency and faithfulness, who never earned much money, but never failed to provide for his family. who nearly gave his life for his country but never boasted or scorned others on account of it, and who is mourned today by great-grandsons who have no memory of him, but look forward to meeting him in heaven.

Great-Grandma, three generations now thank you for catching your son pocketing his tithe, and for setting him straight when he needed it.

We just hope you didn't lose too much sleep over it at the time.

When we meet up there someday, can you tell me this story?

Cloudy Sky at the Beach

Let me be a cloudy sky at the beach.

Not the perfection the beautiful seek, but a relief to those who've been burned.

An attraction not to the regulars, but to those who thought they'd never brave it again, to those who had forgotten how good the water feels against their skin, who had made peace with leaving that joy to everyone else.

Better yet, a rain shower right on the sand, each drop making its own splash in the waves, while an unbroken seashell is found by fingers digging blind, an inch underground, the perfect reward for the bravery of returning.