Bullet-Proofing

Another week in America. Another massacre.

(File that in the category of things I never – in my wildest and worst nightmares – imagined saying/thinking/writing.)

A deranged gunman opens fire in a crowded bar in Thousand Oaks.

Bullets fly.

People die.

And the attacker pauses to post on social media before killing himself. (More on that later.)

Our reactions are wide-ranging… and telling. From unmoved to outraged, heartsick to dumbstruck.

Here we go again.

Sudden death. And then a tidal wave of emotions: apathy (another mass shooting today… and… by the way, did you pick up the dry cleaning?) to anger… to anguish.

Who can answer the locked-and-loaded questions? Who can make sense of the senseless?

Who can stop the hell-bent?

Immediately following the bloodshed, the same refrain. Pundits pontificate. Politicians posture. Parents press for solutions… and scramble to protect their young.

Praying desperate prayers…

Deliver us from evil.

Taking necessary precautions…

Baby-proofing. Bullet-proofing.

How on God’s green earth did we get here?

There’s no denying that danger lurks… darkness lingers. In malls and movie theaters, neighborhoods and nightclubs.

We aren’t safe anywhere. Even in school. Even in synagogue. (Homeland security? Is there even such a thing?)

Maybe I’m an idealist (or a loon), but I think there’s a lot we can/should/must do.

NOW.

I’m no policy expert, but it seems fairly obvious that these things should top our “to do” list:

  • Ban manufacture and sale of assault weapons, bump stocks and extended magazines. Stat.
  • Require a waiting period prior to all gun purchases. Thirty days seems reasonable. Enough time for law enforcement to do background checks, hotheads to cool off, and suicidal/homicidal impulses to pass. (If it takes 6-8 weeks to get a passport, why should anybody complain about waiting 4 weeks for a weapon?)
  • Impose a minimum age requirement of 21 for gun ownership and possession (with exceptions for active duty military personnel).
  • Implement a more effective red-flagging system. Mental health professionals, physicians and educators – who are already “mandatory reporters” anyway – submit critical information directly to law enforcement when they suspect someone may have violent impulses or intent to harm. Immediate risk assessment follows.
  • Create a database to compile these and other “at-risk” reports. If someone appears to be mentally unstable and potentially violent, a concerned family member/ friend/neighbor can call a hotline or file an online report. (Similar to a DCFS report for child abuse.) If three such reports are received, law enforcement responds (computer search, mental-health assessment, weapons inventory, etc.).
  • Bolster investigative units specializing in online/social media threats. Develop algorithms for identifying cases of cyber-radicalization and home-grown terrorism.
  • Provide active shooter training for every professional currently required to be first aid/CPR certified. (School administrators, health care workers, etc.)

In this latest attack, the shooter (described by acquaintances as a “hothead” with an “explosive temper”) had been reported to police during a domestic disturbance last April. Finding him “somewhat irate” and “irrational,” law enforcement officials called in a crisis intervention team and mental health specialist. Despite concerns about his agitated behavior (and possible PTSD related to prior military service – including deployment to Afghanistan in 2011), the young man was cleared.

If he had been held on a 5150 order, he would have been taken into custody for 72 hours and – under California law – would have been prohibited from owning or possessing firearms thereafter.

And maybe, just maybe, a dozen people who were alive and well on Wednesday afternoon would still be living and breathing. At least a little longer.

I doubt any of the folks in the Borderline Bar and Grill Wednesday night thought it might be their last. Most of the victims were young, their whole lives ahead of them.

But the truth is – even with a vest, shield and tactical gear – the only part of us that’s bulletproof is our soul.

For man is but a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. ~ Psalm 144:4 

Our bodies break. Our minds fail. Our hearts stop. But our souls, they endure. Even when wildfires ravage and storms batter and bullets rain, our souls survive.

My great comfort in these trying and troubled times is this:

It is well with my soul. 

And my desperate prayer is that it be well with yours too. Because every SOS is ultimately… a plea to God.

Save Our Souls.

I don’t know when or where terror will strike next. Or whether I might soon be “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” unaware of someone armed-and-dangerous nearby. (Because as the gunman so eerily wrote in his mid-massacre social media post: “Yeah… I’m insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is ‘hopes and prayers’ or ‘keep you in my thoughts…’ Every time… and wonder why these keep happening.”)

I understand the sheer exasperation and disgust of those who keep hearing “thoughts and prayers” but not a single solution.

(Or more importantly, action… protection… prevention.)

So to all the victims’ families and everyone who’s shell-shocked, grief-stricken, frightened or furious tonight, I offer not only my thoughts and prayers… but action points.

Because…

… With faith… If it doesn’t cause us to do something, it’s dead. ~ James 2:17

Please keep praying. (Frankly, I’m stunned by anyone – talking to you, Cuomo – who suggests prayer makes no difference. Without prayer Chris, things would be a HELL of a lot worse.)

And yes, let’s take action too.

Don’t let evil overcome you. Overcome evil by doing good. ~ Romans 12:21

For God’s sake, let’s do something.

Call your elected officials, thank a first-responder, donate blood, hug your kid.

And never ever forget…

Love. Will. Win.

Wendy

P.S. On this Veteran’s Day (as we ponder how to best protect our people and our nation), a simple and sincere “thanks” to our vets seems woefully insufficient. But today and every day, I’m grateful to the brave men and women who’ve served in the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard. May God bless you and keep you. And may it be well with your soul.

 

 

Dearly Beloved

It’s wedding season.

Which means the “Wedding March” and “Love Shack” are topping playlists everywhere. I happen to be a fan of the B-52s – and Mendelssohn too – so I’m ok with that. (I draw the line at “Turn Down for What.” Just… no.)

I love weddings. The solemn vows, the sentimental toasts, the sacred union. The blushing bride, dashing groom, teary-eyed parents. The dress, the flowers, the CAKE. That last, lovely daddy-daughter dance, the crazy kid doing the Worm, the bevy of bridesmaids clap-hop-stomping to the Cha Cha Slide. The bouquet toss, the clinking glasses, the joyful rice/bubbles/sparkler sendoff.

But first – barely above a whisper – the seating of the guests, the lighting of the candles, the sprinkling of the petals to herald the bride’s slow, sweet stroll down the aisle. And then the pastor/priest/rabbi/internet-ordained-second-cousin-of-the-groom begins the ceremony… and at that point, I have to suppress a little giggle.

Because I’m envisioning the bishop from “The Princess Bride,” that’s why.

Mawwwage… Mawwwage is what bwings us togevver today. Mawwwage, that bwessed awwwangement. That dweam wifffin a dweam…

(Well played, Peter Cook.)

There are lots of terrific films about engagements and weddings and brides and grooms but “The Princess Bride” is my favorite… (six-fingered) hands down. It’s action, adventure, romance, comedy, fantasy and fairy tale all delightfully mined and cut into one brilliant little cinematic gem.

Brandishing a stellar cast, quotable script, and enduring lessons on life and love, the film adaptation of William Goldman’s book was a sleeper hit. It opened just a few weeks before Steve and I were married in 1987 and had a mildly successful run in theaters before gaining widespread fame and “family classic” status following its video release. Perhaps that’s the reason I remain so enamored: the story harkens back to the beginning of my own “happily ever after.”

(You may heretofore refer to Steve as “sweet Westley” and me as Buttercup. If you wish.)

“The Princess Bride” launched Robin Wright’s award-winning career and brought Columbo’s to a satisfying and splendid close. It introduced us to the dangers of shrieking eels, fireswamps, and iocane powder, and the wonders of MLT sandwiches, swashbuckling swordplay, and chocolate-covered miracle pills. And it bestowed a rich stash of witty and iconic film quotes (which serve as regular retorts in our household).

I’m not a witch; I’m your wife!

Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates…? Morons!

When I was your age, (YouTube/Netflix/Xbox) was called books.

We are men of action. Lies do not become us.

Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

But I digress.

The reason I find weddings so captivating is this: they remind me what matters most. Family, beauty, devotion, worship. They make no apologies about what we ought to do: keep our promises, cherish our people, love big and bold and brave… ever after.

Sadly, things don’t always turn out as swimmingly as they did for Buttercup and Westley. There’s a whole lot of living that happens between “once upon a time” and “happily ever after,” and it requires copious amounts of grit and grace. Day after day after day after day after day.

Every so often, I watch the bride and groom wave goodbye to their guests, and I think…

Have fun storming the castle!

Do you think it’ll work?

It would take a miracle.

The odds are stacked pretty high against lifelong love and devotion. Two people are drawn by their differences, then dashed by them. Or by the natural (and/or manmade) disasters that inevitably strike every living thing on planet Earth.

Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

Some couples grow apart, others grow bitter. And a few – those rare and lovely few – grow old together. They hold tight – for better or worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health – ’til their very last breath. Gladly. Gracefully.

Mother Theresa once said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Yes, that’s the hard holy work, isn’t it? Loving the people under your own roof.

Sometimes I wonder if I have what it takes. To serve, sacrifice, set me-me-me aside.

For us-us-us.

Love – real love – costs. (The people who say it’s free are… well… morons.) Love costs a bundle.

A willingness to risk your life… and lay it down. Risking your life may be the easier thing. It’s the laying it down, day in and day out, that’s really hard. Choosing to selflessly, relentlessly love an imperfect person. Someone whose flaws have become glaringly apparent. Someone who has failed you time and time again.

It’s an impossible task, really. Unless we are filled and fueled by Love Incarnate.

Here’s the hitch:

We must be fully loved before we can love fully.

This is true love. You think this happens every day?

Yes.

God loves you, truly.

Nothing you accomplish could make Him love you more than He already does. And nothing you do will make Him love you any less.

Inconceivable, isn’t it?

All He wants from you, beloved, is that you… be loved.

So, soak it up. And splash it all around. It’s what you were made for.

All you ever really wanted was to be loved (just the way you are)?

As you wish.

Wendy

P.S. You can quote me.