The Fear Upon Us

Six years ago this weekend I spent my first night as a resident of Duncan, Oklahoma. It has been an amazing season of my life and I am grateful beyond measure for the blessing of living here. It’s not perfect. It’s hot and it’s dry and it has issues. I suppose it’s like the rest of the world in that regard.

In recent days, we have seen incredibly violent and senseless crimes occur in our fair city – perpetrated by young men from our town and disturbing beyond description. The world is hearing of our home merely in connection with these heinous acts and, it would seem, find it impossible to believe that these are isolated incidents. They paint us with the same brush as those who have done these things. I get that. I understand it. However, I do not agree.

These young men have been part of a student body at Duncan High School that raised over $20,000 last year in order to enable the purchase of a van with a lift for a classmate who was wheelchair-bound. These young men live in a community where a large number of the church youth groups in town gather one weekend every year for a friendly tournament of “ultimate cow-tongue” (which is every bit as absurd and hilarious as it sounds). These young men have been a part of a town where people pull over as a funeral procession passes and stand and remove their hats when the national anthem is played. These young men are from a place where pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is virtually a community hobby. These young men are from a town where a casual glance at the yellow pages shows over 70 churches in a town of approximately 23,000 folks.

The real issue is that these young men, just like all of us, are the direct result of a broken world. They are broken just like I am. My brokenness manifests itself in other, less formidable ways, but it’s the same brokenness. And it’s not just here in Duncan, Oklahoma. It’s everywhere. That’s why God sent His Son to die in our place. He loved us to much to leave us broken and hopeless in a world that is decaying before our eyes.

This morning I dropped two of my sons off at Duncan High School where the campus is under heightened security due to threats that have surfaced toward the school. I realize that many parents very well may have chosen to keep their students out of school today. I respect that decision, but let me explain mine.

Terrorism is, by definition, the manipulation or coercion of a person or people by means of fear. It’s not the acts that are the objective. It is, rather, the fear that is produced by actions and the threats thereof that is the true intent of terrorism. There is a natural fear that is produced when a violent tragedy strikes so very close to home. It is truly an act of terrorism to play upon that fear to wreak havoc upon a community by manipulating and escalating that fear with threats.

Today, I took my boys to school because I refuse to be manipulated by fear. I know that there is a danger today, though I believe it is less than yesterday due to the faithful diligence of the school administration and the Duncan Police Department. I have confidence that they are looking out for my kids’ safety. But I have confidence in a much higher and stronger hand than theirs.

In our family devotion time this morning, we looked at Psalm 91 and focused upon these words:

I will say to The Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”…He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. (Psalm 91:3-4, 6)

I don’t like what has gone on in our home town. I wish it had not happened. That, however, is not mine to decide. Mine is to choose and lead my family in choosing how we will respond. As for me and my house, we refuse to give in to terror.

In the scene linked below from The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf gives young Frodo a great grain of wisdom that I think we must embrace today.

So, what will you decide?

55 thoughts on “The Fear Upon Us

  1. what strong and beautiful words about my hometown….I live just 10 miles north now in the little town of Marlow…but my heart is still “home”, and I go there often on business. We too, have chosen not to give in to the ‘terrorist factor’ but put our trust in our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ….have a good day…and blessed.

  2. Well-said, Mike. “The LORD is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

  3. My family was blessed to call Duncan our home for five years. As stated, it’s not a perfect community but the good far and away out weighs the bad. Anybody who is fortunate enough to call Duncan OK home is fortunate.

  4. Unfortunately, you have not lived in Duncan long enough. You still think it is a nice little small town with a lot of potential. the only thing different about this murder is that the police didn’t participate in it. there is a slimy underbelly to Duncan that you don’t want to see.

    1. I cannot argue with your comment, sir. I know I’ve only been here a short time. Mine is only one opinion, but it is one. This town has issues. I’ve lived in 11 different towns in my life – which is a lot more than some folks and a lot less than others. One thing I know is that they all have their issues. I don’t mean to suggest that this town has it all together. I just mean to say that the things we have seen in recent days are not the norm.

      Thanks for offering a different perspective and thanks for reading.

      1. As the kind of pastor such as Mike is, he might actually WANT to see the “slimy underbelly” of Duncan.

  5. I was fortunate to call Duncan, OK my home for two years until my career moved me and my family elsewhere. As I learned of the terrible tragedy that struck Duncan last Friday, I grieved in a state of disbelief – not in Duncan I recall thinking, and I prayed for all those affected either directly or indirectly. Duncan is a strong community with a solid foundation of leadership and faith, and because of it, it will emerge an even better community.

  6. We refused to give into those that try to keep us down with fear. We chose to send our grandson to school this morning. We have trust in our schools and trust in each other as a community to stand up and become one, to stand tall, and stay strong. I thank you for sharing your thoughts, we moved to Duncan, OK 4 years ago, it was the best thing we ever chose to do, never knowing or thinking about a little town of OK as a place to call our final move and home. We are so happy that we did, we love Duncan, love the community and are confident that we will rise above this and be strong for each other. God Bless Duncan, OK!!

  7. I spent 20 plus years living in Duncan and I graduated from Duncan High School. My heart is broken because what has transpired in Duncan. My mom and dad still live in Duncan, I have Aunts, Uncles and Cousins that live in Duncan. I would love to tell the world that this small little Oklahoma town is a great place to live and grow. I have alot of great memories about Duncan and I will forever call it my home town.

  8. So very well spoken and right on target!!!! Thank you for sharing your insight in this dreadful situation. God Bless You~

  9. Thank you for eloquent of expression of what many of us feel. We made Duncan our home for 20 years and it breaks my heart to see such a promising life cut so short for so little reason, and for this happy place in the news like this. Duncan is a community that revolves around our children, their sports, and church. We do live in a sinful world, which is all too clear at times.

  10. I was born and raised in Duncan and Marlow, I knew one of those boys personally, actually drove him around a time or two.. I couldnt believe it when I heard what they had done and why. Its terrible, but I completely agree with what this guy is saying. My neice is a freshman at Duncan High School this year. She is a straight A student, beautiful, talented, I could go on. She is in her first relationship with her first love. She’s a normal teenager who doesnt deserve to be subjected to threats while trying to attend school. I know what these boys did was wrong, but please whoever is sending these threats, Please dont hurt her. She is not involved in this tragedy.

  11. Thanks for sharing that Duncan is a place full of wonderful people who do care about people. I loved being a part of the DHS family for 18 years. I will always be a proud Duncan Demon. We are reminded that this world is broken but we serve a God who loves us and He has a plan for us. Love God, love others, nothing else matters.

  12. Thank you as well for such a beautiful description of my home town. I wish somehow that the grieving parents in Australia could know the true spirit of our community. I want them to know that even among the threats of terror, thousands of people in this small town grieve with them. Our hearts ache and are filled with compassion. Something that the media cannot see.

  13. As I read this my eyes filled with tears. Duncan is my home and has been for 42 great years. I to raise my children with principles from the word of God. I will not allow fear to grip the hearts of myself nor my family. For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind! God bless Duncan and the wonderful people that have lived here, live here currently and those that choose to live here in the future! Thank you for this blog!

  14. I went to school in Duncan until my 8th grade year. Not once did a terrible thing like this happen. I moved several times growing up. I dealt with kids bullying me around. Believe or not it happens everywhere. For example, the teenage boys from Carl Junction, MO that beat their classmate to death with bats. Those boys were Honor students…..
    So, know where your kids are & what they are doing. Who cares if they get mad. Parents are a foundation to every childs life.

  15. Beautifully stated. I’m an alum from Duncan, and must say that the worst fear I ever experienced growing up was who would hurt themselves. There was a rash of Russian roulette going on, and a suicide that shocked me. I recall many great community activities, and lots of things to do as a youth in our fair city. Duncan was a wonderful place to hang one’s hat.

    Guard your hearts and your loved ones. Be watchful. Do not fear. Pray without ceasing.

  16. A young man is dead.his mother is moirning his loss. Instead of worrying about duncans reputation being tarnished. How about realizing whats really important and talking about her. God gives us strength but also knowledge to stay safe. Its just not about you. But go ahead and try to make it so. Seems as though you have many followers that agree that this is about you and them.

    1. Friend, I hear what you are saying, but I must politely disagree with your interpretation of my post. Let me be clear that there is no way I would begin to compare the impact upon our community with the unspeakable grief that the family is no doubt experiencing. My prayers have been continuous for all so directly affected by this tragic event. My post, however, was focused upon the manipulation of the fear that naturally follows such an event. The truth is that life changed for our community. We all have to decide how we will go forward.

      I appreciate your comment, but I must respectfully disagree.

  17. Duncan has been my home for 24 years. The bulk of my family still live here. While I am not an officer, I proudly work for the Duncan Police Department. It saddens me that our town has been put on the national and worldwide spotlight in such a horrible way, but at the same time I am amazed that our town of 24,000 immediately came together after this tragedy to raise money to send Chris Lane and his fiancé back to Austrailia for a funeral with his family. The community has shown so much love and support for the family, even though they are understandably outraged. Duncan may be small, but we have one of the biggest hearts!

    1. Thank you. Thats a post about whats important. Instead of making it about youyou made it about the real victims. Its horriblle but duncan will be fine. That family has a much bigger pains to endure. I get so tired of every time there is a tragedy people try to makecit about them. But bless your heart you didnt.good for duncan getting behind these people.

  18. I applaud your comments about Duncan. My husband and I don’t live in Duncan, but we attend All Saints’ Episcopal Church there, I substitute in the schools there, and we both believe it to be a good community. That being said, what we all should be saying is how badly we feel for the parents of Chris Lane, for the rest of his family and for his fiancee. They are hurting so very badly. What we should be doing is praying for them, for the families of the boys involved in the shooting, for the boys who committed this senseless crime, and seeking God’s guidance for ways to keep other young people from doing the same thing — here in Stephens County, in the USA, and worldwide. This isn’t just a Duncan, America problem, and I believe only God (no matter what name you call to him by) can help us help our young. Let’s get down on our knees!!!

  19. I don’t, for one minute believe this article is about one person in particular or a towns reputation. I believe it’s about families of a community that are deeply saddened by this tragedy and that it has sadly happened in their town.As an Oklahoman myself, I am heartbroken for Chris Lane’s family, girlfriend and many friends. The issue at hand is that without God’s guidance, this world is going to go to Hell in a hand basket. Doesn’t matter what town, state, country or continent or whether the suspects are red, yellow, black or white, from a rich family or poor family…a tragedy is a tragedy!!!

  20. Mike,
    You may not know who I am. My name is Amanda Smith. I taught Kari, Mickey, and Andrew, in addition to your new daughter-in-law, Jessica. My son, Gabi, and your son, Danny, are classmates. Gabi thinks a lot of Danny, and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching all 3 of your older children. I don’t know you or your wife, but your reputation as loving, faithful Christian parents precedes you both by shining through your children. You both have done a wonderful job raising respectable, faithful, moral-bound, humorous, intelligent children.
    Your above entry has only served to enforce what I already thought of you. I saw no name-calling, no mud-slinging, and no hatred. I saw you humble yourself instead of claiming to be more worthy or valuable than these broken young men. I saw your positive but realistic description of this town. I see that you do not condone the cruel, callous behavior of these disturbed young men, but refuse to join countless others who are content to spew hatred. I see faithfulness, spirituality, and compassion, and I appreciate both you and your wife for being leaders in our community. Thank you. –

    1. You are too kind. Thanks so much for your encouraging words and for your contribution to our kids. You most certainly have left your mark on them and they always speak fondly of you. Again, thank you!

  21. Thank you so much for this inspiring essay. I was born in Duncan, my Grandma & Grandpa lived on Country Club Road, straight across from Plato Elementary. This has been such a tragedy for such a sweet hometown. There is always an ugly side to any community, but it shouldn’t be what a town is known for. The grace and goodness of Duncan will always come through.
    May the LORD bless you, residents of Duncan.
    Jenny (Buben) Hopper

  22. Thank you Mike for your encouraging words about our town and our schools and the good that is here. But most of all Thanks for your reminder about the savior who loves us, “in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us”. Yes even these boys!

  23. I enjoyed your article. I was raised in Duncan and graduated from DHS. I now reside in Anchorage, Alaska. I am saddened that Duncan has witnessed several acts of wickedness and insanity this summer and past year.
    However, there is a difference between fear and awareness. I do not fear the actions of others, nor h day. I am aware of the fact that there are evil people all around me who, if given the opportunity, would effect their evil will on me. The solution is awareness, preparedness, and determination .
    Be determined to not be a victim. Live without fear. Teach your family to do the same. Use the brain God gave us. There is no glory in living in fear but there is triumph and and freedom in trust and action.

  24. My wife and I visited Duncan a little over a year ago. We stayed at the LIndley House bed and breakfast. It was delightful. We went and walked the streets downtown and visited a few of the retailers. We were treated a valued visitors to the “Crepe Myrtle” capitol of Oklahoma. None of the current news from Duncan seems even possible. May our Lord bless your fine town as you heal from this tragedy.

  25. I loved your article , which is why I followed you to, as I wish to keep track of your blog and see what else you have to offer the blogging world 🙂 please check out my latest blog feature a song by a young man called Kurtis Robinson Every like gives him a greater chance of making it .
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  26. I think it’s a general trend that people will say that everyone living in the same place with a similar culture is the same, especially when a few people do some bad things. For example, the whole sentiment nowadays that all Muslims are terrorists. Well, everyone knows that’s not the case, just like everyone knows that everyone from Duncan isn’t a terrible person. It’s just easier to talk in absolutes, I guess.

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