The Ripples of Fear

When a big rock drops into the pond, it makes a lot of ripples.

Yesterday a very big rock dropped into the small pond that 23,000 or so of my friends and I call home. The ripples started big like shock waves with “active shooter” and “multiple fatalities” and the terrifying “suspect still at large.”

The ripples of fear radiated.

There were frantic calls and texts to account for loved ones and friends as the worst of our imaginations ran wild. So many thought instantly of their children and were quickly assured that the local schools were all locked down in wise precaution.

The ripples radiated on and on.

As the initial waves passed and more information became available, the waves began to settle. But fear often leaves a nasty hangover.

In small town Oklahoma, we expect stories like the one unfolding here today to be set in big cities out west or back east. But too many times over the last dozen years we’ve had to swallow the words, “That could never happen here.”

It did happen here. The reports confirmed a “double murder-suicide.”

I didn’t know these people. I know they were hurting, broken people because, in one way or another, we’re all hurting, broken people. And on this day one man’s hurt and brokenness boiled over into this tragic event.

But the ripples of fear keep rolling.

If it could happen in the parking lot where all of us have to go from time to time, it could happen to us or happen in front of us or we could get caught in the mess.

The truth is that it’s not any more likely to happen tomorrow than it was yesterday. But today we were faced with the cold reality that these kinds of things can happen here to our neighbors, our friends… us.

But there are some breakers to the ripples. There are those who refuse to let the ripples of fear roll over them.

There are the law enforcement and emergency responders who have sworn to rush in when fear says to rush out. They break the ripples by the bravery.

There are the educators that calmly engage their lockdown procedures to ensure the safety of our kids. They break the ripples by their calm preparedness.

There are the men and women—just everyday folks—who recognize this horrific event as the exception and not the rule in our mostly very peaceful home. They break the ripples by choking down the “what-ifs” and going on to do their jobs or buy their groceries or whatever they know needs to be done. They break the ripples by their steadfastness.

There are the people of deep faith who are convinced at the depth of their soul that there is a God and he is good and that these things do not disprove his existence but underscore our desperate need for his grace. They break the ripples by calling out to the God they know is listening—independently, collectively, earnestly asking for peace and calm and hope. They break the ripples by their faith.

There are so many things that jar us out of our comfortable delusions that we are safely insulated from these heart-shattering experiences. Since the day that Abel was murdered by his brother in a jealous rage, domestic violence has been an all-too-common part of human society. Those rocks of offense will continue to trigger these ripples through communities just like ours all around the world.

But what will we do with it? Will we determine to be breakers that face the ripples without being deterred in our bravery, our preparedness, our steadfastness, or our faith? Yes, let’s do that.

But what if we try to do more? What if we pay enough attention to our friends and neighbors and coworkers to recognize that the small stone they’ve been carrying suddenly seems to be getting a lot bigger? What if we strive to become the kind of neighbors that can be trusted to listen with compassion and help without condescension?

What if we do what we can to make mental health help available to everyone that needs it and crush the stigma that surrounds it? What if we were to live out that whole “love your neighbor as yourself” business to the point that we could come along and help someone put down their rock before they throw it in the pond?

There will always be ripples of fear in one form or another. What can we do to help break them? 

Remember… “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4.18)

The 2nd Greatest Grace

I talk a lot about God’s grace. It’s the passion of my life and the lens through which I see and understand the world.

28 years ago today (June 15, 1991) I received the 2nd greatest gift of God’s grace in my life.

Wedding_pic.jpg

She is my tutor in organizational techniques.

27982905_10159869956830461_4277478457804360286_o

She is my partner in all kinds of ministry.

13435364_1077760358956195_2953364976503528875_n

She is my fellow adventurer in journeys near and far.

IMG_0257

She is my counterbalance for many of my extremes.

q34xU38gQ169dnbXoA9CtA

She is my encourager when fear wells up within.

GCYU0DCDS++yKXsSjvKc9A

She is my un-ignorable voice of conscience when I don’t want to listen.

13482881_10157037065375640_7657377548022141175_o

She is my cheerleader and my drill sergeant.

O12pH+kEQhKIApVY+aQsQw

She is my training partner and finish line celebrator.

dvSnASI8Ta2Yp1H1edZVmw

She is the most common tool of God’s refining work in me.

0nePlC4sTVG5AI0P3W0Aag

She is amazing and beautiful and funny.

28162108_10159870335310461_9079876059231218408_o

She is my hand-holder and sorrow sharer.

YimADMTeTbCYcoY6tBGrZA

She makes me want to be a better man.

27913104_10159870076220461_1510343809639015903_o

She is, without question, the 2nd greatest demonstration of God’s grace in my life.

“An excellent wife who can find?

She is far more precious than jewels.

The heart of her husband trusts in her,

And he will have no lack of gain.” (Proverbs 31.10-11)

Thanks for the Lift!

I want to show you a picture of myself.

Turtle on a Fence Post

I know, I’m not a turtle. But many of you know that, if a spirit animal was really a thing, for me it would be a toss up between sloth and a turtle. I’m not particularly quick about stuff… generally speaking.

This picture is really more about how I feel at this point in my life. Several days ago I was able to participate in the graduation exercises of Dallas Theological Seminary. In a couple of months, when a bit more paper work is done and a few more hoops have been jumped through, I will hang my diploma in my study next to this picture.

This picture is in itself a testimony of how I find myself passing such a milestone. It was taken by my dear brother after hearing me speak of the old observation of the turtle on a fence post. It’s a simple observation really.

If you see a turtle on a fence post, there is one thing you can know most surely: he did not get there by himself.

That’s my story. I find myself in a place in my life to which I could never have arrived on my own strength or ability or effort. My amazing wife and this crazy kids of mine (born and otherwise) have endured and supported and allowed me to invest the time and energy needed. Our pals (a.k.a. the Coffee Club) have endured so many groaning sessions and crying spells.

So many of my brothers at arms—my pastor brothers who encouraged and supported and prayed for me along the way—helped me through more than they know. My family—brothers and sisters and parents–did the same.

There were several professors that invested more than just a transmission of information by helping me, encouraging me, and challenging me to genuinely, “Teach truth. Love well.” My mentor for this final year has invested so many hours in listening, encouraging, praying, and teaching.

And then there is the family of faith that motivated this degree in the first place. My CalvaryDuncan family has patiently allowed, endured, and encouraged this process. Their prayers and patience have been so crucial to this journey, but the truth is that I began this journey out of a longing to be the kind of pastor that I believe they deserve.

Along this mountain-climb, several folks have come along at crucial moments and made enormous investments in my life and ministry. Some of those have been in financial ways (including the entirety of my last two semesters’ tuition), some with a particular conversation or prayer, and some with a kindness or gift or gesture. All of these moments and helps have helped me carry on.

GmC%uc7hSOmOJEfiXU4oEw
This photo is a cross-section of the much larger group of folks that have given me such a lift.

All of these folks have figuratively lent a hand to lift a middle-aged turtle to a place that he could never have managed to reach on his own. So I guess the question is obvious: why?

I can only believe that all of these amazing people were a part of a extraordinarily beautiful example of what Paul taught us so plainly:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all time, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

They were and are, each and every one, vehicles of the amazing grace of God through which He has provided for me everything I need to follow His plan for my life and ministry.

As I pause here atop this utterly unlikely fence post, I can only say to them all, “Thanks for the lift!”