Scared - For Real

It feels like we’re living in crazy town.  Earlier this year, a bright college student went on a deadly shooting spree in a local movie theater just a few miles from our home.

In what made national news, a young local girl’s body was discovered, confirming the worst of her disappearance.  We then learned that the 17-year old “boy next door” had savagely brutalized his victim.  On the same evening, parents in our neighborhood were alerted that two other separate and independent child abductions were foiled, thank God, that day alone.

Late that night I found my wife with her head in her hands, weeping quietly as she sat outside our children’s rooms in the dark.  “I’m scared,” she whispered.

Behind the locked doors and engaged alarm system of our second amendment-secured home, I didn’t understand her fear, at first.  Then it hit me.  She was afraid for our boys, for all children, not so much in here as out there.  I share her fear.

As a child I always loved the spook and spectacular of Halloween.  The ghouls and goblins and zombies were fun and funny because they were fake.  What really scared me?  Jaws.  Like millions of others, I was genuinely afraid of the reality that an unseen predator posed.

Today the threat of a gnashing beast isn’t limited to deep and murky waters at sunset.  Monsters don't just creep the neighborhood on All Hallows' Eve.  They are real and they are everywhere.  Is the world becoming a more sinister place?  Are our children at greater risk by the horrors of man’s dark sin nature?  I hate to say it because it shatters my sense of security, but I think the answer is yes.

So, in an uncontrollable world, what can we do to help protect our kids and instill a healthy sense of caution in them?

• We must keep vigilant watch on our surroundings and be an active part of our kid’s day-to-day worlds.

• We need to have regular conversations with kids about the predatory dangers that hunt children around the corner, down the street, and especially online. 

• We must face the reality of desensitization towards violence, gore, crime, sexuality and lowest common denominator human behavior (see most of the “reality” shows on prime time television) that is occurring daily with our children.  The rising threshold of tolerance for the macabre is an epidemic and exponentially increases the challenges for parents safeguarding kids.  We must guide youth in establishing values that transcend the culture.  We need to help them discern the difference between fantasy and reality.

• We should be in vigilant prayer that Almighty God protects our families and that He shields us from evil.

 “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” 
Proverbs 18:10

We pray for the Ridgeway family and all parents who have suffered the inexplicable loss of a child.

On behalf of mothers and fathers everywhere, I send my deep thanks and prayers to Ms. Sigg, the aforementioned murderer’s mother, who played a critical role in her son’s confession and arrest.  I cannot fathom the pain and confusion she must feel.  It is clear though, while the precious girl who lost her life cannot be restored here on earth, that this brave woman possibly saved other lives at the hands of her son.  With parenting comes incredible responsibility, in good times and bad.  

Living Courageously

What does courage mean to you? defines courage as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc.”

In my view, real courage is much more than the preparedness or a plan to be brave, committed, and resolved in one’s convictions.  It’s about action – what someone actually does (or doesn’t do) when it matters most. 

As you may know, I work with Dr. James Dobson.  The experience has been one of the great honors of my professional career.  The truth be told, when I accepted this assignment I had no idea how much I would learn not only from his expertise and body of work, but by watching him live.  Time and time again, I witness Dr. Dobson display great courage as he stays the course, promoting the biblical principles of parenting and marriage.  All too often this puts him under personal attack - his service, his heart, his intentions and his character are all called into question.  Flat out lies and hate speech are publicly flung his way.  And yet, the man transcends these attacks. 

I wish you could see what I’ve seen day-to-day.  The tireless work ethic.  The dedication.  The love this man has for families, for his own family, and for the Lord.  You get a sense for it in Dr. Dobson’s books, but I can tell you – it’s not just theory.  He is the real deal and we are all very lucky to have him as he stands for the family.

Challenge: Especially as parents, we each need copious amounts of courage.  We are blessed to have a handful of men and women in our midst who model what it really means to be courageous Christians.  We would be wise to pay attention.


“This, then, is our goal as parents: we must not transfer power too early, even if our children take us daily to the battlefield.  Mothers who make that mistake are some of the most frustrated people on the face of the earth.  On the other hand, we must not retain parental power too long, either. Control will be torn from our grasp if we refuse to surrender it voluntarily. The granting of self-determination should be matched stride for stride with the arrival of maturity, culminating with complete release during early adulthood.”  Dr. James Dobson, from Parenting Isn’t For Cowards.

Save The Day

After a long week, my already lengthy homeward bound commute was extended an hour-and-a-half by inexplicable bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Friday evening I was reminded that my son’s picture day and soccer game was scheduled at an unfamiliar location, far away from our home at 7-something AM.   Exhausted, the following morning we rushed out the door as dawn cracked the horizon.  I got lost.  We were late.  I was underdressed.  We arrived 30-minutes after the designated meeting time, just as the photographer was arriving.  Annoyed parents shivered with hands stuffed into puffy jacket pockets on a foggy, wet field.  Being jacket-less myself in the low-40 degree chill, I opted to thaw in my car as everyone waited for the picture guy to get his act together.  Cold, hungry and tired, a mood was forming…

Soon I was summoned to the parents huddle by the team coach.  Apparently he’d missed an email from the league.  Our game had been rescheduled.  He sheepishly asked, could we “fill time” for six hours at the field or drive back for a game at 3PM?  Fortunately, I wasn’t the only parent for whom a full-day, hour-long soccer game would not work.  As we determined that we’d not have sufficient players to field a team at the actual game time, it began to rain on us.

So what now?

My sons had every reason to feel equally frustrated.  However, they could have cared less.  To my grumbles one responded, “At least I was able to see my friends,” and “I’m glad we didn’t miss my pictures,” and way too cheerily, “now we have more time for our day!”  They suggested that we find a place where they could have a second breakfast and warm up with something hot and sweet.  OK, whatever.

When we arrived at The Original Pancake House, no less than 30 ravenous people waited eagerly as the cue extended beyond the restaurant’s cozy lobby out to the patio and into the parking lot.  I thought – GAME OVER!  Undeterred, my sons pressed that we wait.  When all those before us were seated, as well as, mysteriously, some who arrived after us, we were ushered to our table.  I sat and everything changed. 

A cheerful and attentive server supplied copious amounts of caffeine, and quickly delivered delectable cinnamon apple German pancakes and others frothing with whipped cream and dripping with hot syrup.  Sizzling, crisp bacon wafted a smoky aroma that gifted memories of my childhood.  The boys joked and laughed, making up memory games and drawing good-natured caricatures on the restaurant-supplied Etch-a-Sketches (a fantastic idea, by the way). Warm, fed and hydrated it settled in - the day had been saved.

Thinking back just one hour I realized that the tipping point was the “what now” moment in the car.  My boys’ ability to find beauty in the ashes led us down a significantly different path, likely for the remainder of the day.  They were the ying to my yang.  I was reminded and inspired to look for opportunities to be the sun amidst other’s cloudy days instead of being the lightning.

I wonder if the real purpose of the day’s string of previous fiascos was simply to set-up that very moment with my boys.  In it, Psalm 127 : 3-4 became alive.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!”

As parents, we should be aware of the living example God has entrusted to our care.  Despite the circumstances of daily life and setbacks both large and small, we are challenged to be appreciative, to be flexible, and to live in the joy of the moment in a child-like manner.  More than our moods are at stake.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 18:1-3

PRAYER: Father, we thank you for the blessing of children and ask for your help and continual reminder to also live in the hope and faith that they naturally display.  Amen.

Truth and Integrity

It was after bedtime and my 9-year old son rushed me a stack of papers and thrust a pen into my hand, asking for my signature – a signoff on his weekly reading log. Clearly he’d just filled-in several days of “reading” and was requesting my confirmation of his work. The problem was he’d claimed daily reading time through 10/3. It was 10/2. I asked him to reconsider his report, explaining that it was far more important to me that we tell the truth; that we are men who try our very best to develop and live with integrity – to celebrate our strengths and to own our shortcomings. Oh, and I reminded him that because of his after school soccer practice, dinner and bedtime routine, there was no way he’d read the day before and he couldn’t possibly have already read tomorrow.

After considering my proposition, he reclaimed the reading log and recorded zeroes for the previous three days. With eyes directed to the floor my boy explained that consequently he’d have to attend study hall the next day instead of going to recess. There, he would face the music and get caught up.

My heart swelled with pride for this young man. He chose integrity. He chose to trust me with the truth. I told Hunter that by deciding to correct his path he has set a precedent whereby I can stand by him when he counts on me to back him up, even when no other hard evidence is available.

It occurred to me that I have the same choices as he did. And, I have the opportunity and obligation to show him that honesty matters to me through my own admission to failure – not just when it’s easy. The teacher has become the student again. What a privilege it is to be challenged, man-to-man, iron sharpening iron.

Mr. President, you too can learn something from my son, Hunter.

Challenge: Make the most of your next misstep by sharing with your child how you erred and what you’ll do to make things right.