This past week just a few miles from my home yet another troubled teenager entered his school, armed with weapons and explosives, fired on fellow students, before turning the gun on himself as the police closed in. While the rapid response of law enforcement minimized the potential harm to students, a young classmate now lies in a coma fighting for her life. While her parents and our nation pray for her recovery, there is another set of parents who have lost a son – and a nation asking once again, “Why?”
While the radio waves are filled with the predictable arguments over gun control laws – some have brought up the broken home this young man came from and the fact that nearly all school shootings have been committed by children of divorce. While we certainly don’t know the complete reasons for this most recent attack, we do know divorce is an attack a child’s world.
On Kidmin Talk this week I invited Wayne Stocks from DivorceMinistry4Kids.com to join me as we discuss what children’s ministers can and should be doing to better meet the needs of these kids to help them deal with the confusion, hurt and anger that so many of them are struggling with.
I hope you will listen and consider what you might be able to do to help kids who are struggling so that we might be able to prevent future such tragedies as we experienced this week in my community.
As I have just spent the last two days driving across the “fruited plains” I have had time at the wheel to think again about the rich (and sobering) history of this Great Land. And I love to day dream about what life would have been like for myself and my family had we lived in a time when crossing it wouldn’t have been in an air-conditioned mini-van with cruise control and fast food stops or look-a-like rest areas on paved Inter-states – but perhaps along the Oregon or California Trails of 1840? A time when it took months at walking pace to travel hundreds of miles into the unknown leaving all comfort behind and going forward with only hope and courage.
What would “Karl the Pioneer” be like? I have often been called a “Pioneer of the Internet.” In today’s definition of a pioneer I suppose that is true. If being a pioneer is to ‘bravely go where few have gone before,’ then sure. O.K. I was a pioneer. I was building webpages in HTML when most people didn’t have an e-mail address and “blogging” before WordPress or Blogger existed. I survived the “Dot Com Crash” because I built my “Dot Org” on a membership model instead of advertising model before PayPal existed and before AOL even had the World Wide Web. So sure, I guess I “pioneered” the Internet.
But please. The more I learn about the Pioneers of our country, the more insulting it is to them to call anything we do today “pioneering.” We claim to “pioneer” a field of science or sports or entertainment or music. But do we face sickness? Starvation? Or death by some other horrible means if we fall short of our destination?
I’ve been enjoying the AMC series Hell on Wheels on Netflix. Now, I know some of my dear Christian brothers and sisters just choked on their Testimints because I typed the word, “hell,” and if so, they’d better not watch the show. It is a pretty gutsy and probably fairly realistic portrayal of a post-Civil War America that struggles to balance racial tensions, religion, national expansion and good ‘ol American entrepreneurism in the gritty railroad town of “Hell on Wheels” where the railroad is pushing West through Indian territory. It centers around a rough and tough character named Cullen Bohannon, and he ain’t no Roy O’Bannon. (If you know what I’m sayin’ – bonus points in comments if you know who that cowboy is!)
You’ll need to put down your “it has to be Sunday School pure” grid in order to travel back to a time where life was rough and God was hard to see. While certainly not a Christian show, there are glimpses of grace at work in several of the toughest characters and you can see God working if you look carefully. It’s interesting to see that woven in even as the “preacher” isn’t one of the most redeeming characters. It’s a raw show, but then, so was life back then. So it accomplishes it goal of pulling back the curtain on a time that shaped our nation, for better or worse. As the iron tracks made their way across the beautiful pure land, greed and impurity and the worst of fallen human nature came with it. Driving these roads today, it is amazing how much we have “cleaned up” after ourselves, to some extent.
But when I watch things like this (and The Patriot, one of my favorite movies) – I can’t help wondering, “How would I have coped in those times?” Who would I be? How would I have survived and gotten by? What would my occupation be? If I am considered a ‘pioneer’ today, would I have what it took then to be a pioneer?
What you have been? A business owner? A law man? A gun slinger? An outlaw? A farmer? A pioneer? One third of the people heading West were women. So this isn’t just a question for men!
Would have left the security of the East Coast and headed West in search of gold and a promised prosperity? (People expected to pick up gold just lying on the ground in California!)
Would you have what it took to be a Pioneer when the word truly had meaning?
Imagine if the President of the United States heard about your kids ministry and decided he needed to see if for himself?
That’s exactly what happened to a Sunday School Director named Dwight Lyman Moody… and the President was none other than Abraham Lincoln!
I have the honor of being the first children’s pastor on staff at the church he founded well over 100 years ago, The Moody Church.
While he is known primarily as the Billy Graham of the previous generation, his ministry began as a children’s evangelist and he had a HUGE impact on the creation and growth of Sunday School. At a time when many churches were supported by ‘rented pews’ Moody rented pews for street kids. When he was told the children weren’t welcome in church (Big Church) he started a Sunday School for street kids that grew so big and well respected that Abraham Lincoln visited one Sunday to see it for himself! Imagine having the President of the United States drop in to see your kids ministry. Moody was passionate about kids but as his ministry grew, his focus shifted to adults.
He said at the end of his life,
“If I had my life to live over again, I would devote it entirely to reaching children with the Gospel.”
His school is still training kids workers to this day!
You may not see the President of the United States visit your kids ministry, but someone who far out-rankes him visits every week… Jesus! Is your ministry worthy of Him? Are you doing your best? Are you reaching as many kids as possible, and not just the ‘easy’ ones, but the ones that others reject or overlook?
If so, Jesus will show up at YOUR MINISTRY to see it for Himself, and to add His blessing and power while He’s there!
Image from Sandy Hook Principal's Twitter account, Yesterday
I am the father of a kindergartner. I can not fathom the feelings and emotions of those who lost their children today. I have cried today. I have struggled to focus. I suppose in one sense I feel sympathy, which by definition is an extension of empathic concern, or the perception, understanding, and reaction to the distress or need of another human being. But at the end of today, I will get to cuddle with my son, while those parents will somehow try to sleep without their child, with Christmas decorations throughout their home and hidden presents that will never be opened. How can I possibly understand their agony? How can I possibly answer why?
Politicians will resume the “gun control” battle, as though any laws could have prevented the events of today. Perhaps there is some merit in addressing guns… but that does little for those families. Others will decry the lack of prayer in schools or the decline of morality in our culture. Still, empty words to address empty beds tonight.
Many have e-mailed me today or messaged me on Facebook asking what to do on Sunday at church. To that end, I started a thread on Kidology.org. I’ve collected links and letters and sources all day and posted them there. Perhaps you will find some help there, and I encourage you to post your own thoughts and resources there as well. Many have shared helpful thoughts. It’s become a great source of collective wisdom.
But still I grieve. But at the same time, I am renewed in my passion to reach children – and families, and to look into the eyes of those around me and look for hurt. Adam Lanza, the alleged murderer, needed help. To do this, he had to be a lost and broken young man. Society or the Church failed to rescue him. While he is responsible for his actions, we share some responsibility for failing to reach people in need. He is a victim as well, a victim of a broken world. I am not making excuses for him, nor excusing his crime. He is guilty. But had someone reached him or realized he was slipping, perhaps 20 children and 6 adults who cared for and loved those children could have been saved.
So our mission remains clear – love the children and reach families. And always be seeking who around us is flailing and struggling. We never know who we may save when we reach out and share God’s love with the lost around us. There are people losing hope and don’t know there is Hope.
Hug your children, but don’t stop there. Spread God’s love to everyone around you. More people need it than we realize. We don’t need more laws in America, we need more of God’s Love in America.
OK – I’m a political junkie… (if you don’t like politics, skip this post.)
Right now, here is the latest standings according to one of my favorite political pundants, Karl Rove: (click to view bigger)
I decided to download the iPad App FOX NEWS You Decide 2012 Map, which lets you track your OWN Electoral Map – (kinda cool, for politcal junkies, like me.)
I went ahead and played with it:
I gave Florida to Obama…
As much as it hurt, I gave up Colorado too.
But for reasons I won’t get into here, I took Ohio for Romney, along with Wisconsin due to the success Scott Walker has had despite three recall attempts, but gave up Michigan.
I gave up New Hampshire as well. The East Coast is too close to Washington D.C. to get what really runs this country.
And just to be generous, I gave up Nevada (though I expect a lot of Mormons to vote for Romney, I dont’ assume they are the majority of the state? But then again, there is Las Vegas values there too. So I just don’t want to assume.)
Then I took Iowa as good mid-western state with sensible people and due to tracking polls I’ve read.
The result shocked me. I’ve not seen anyone predict a possibility of this:
(Click to View Larger)
269 to 269?!
Oh, boy. Wouldn’t THAT be interesting!
The good news is, I think Florida is going Romney. But this would be a very interesting scenario!
WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE IS A TIE? (very entertaining!)