Christians & COVID: Politicizing, Theorizing (& Apologizing)

The only maladies more contagious than COVID right now are the rapidly-mutating accusations and politically-charged conspiracy theories surrounding it.

Wow.

And yikes.

I haven’t heard them all yet… but I’ve heard a smattering. And a whole lot of them are coming from Christians. (Disclaimer: I realize that some people who’d identify themselves as such don’t know a whole lot about what Jesus said, did or taught.)

Frankly, I just don’t get it.

Because what does polarizing/politicizing/promoting conspiracy theories – in a pandemic (or ever) – actually accomplish? Especially in regards to what Christ told us to do?

Jesus made it pretty clear that we’ve got two essential tasks before us:

Love God with everything we’ve got.

And love people. Strangers, friends and foes alike.

^ I’m not exactly sure how speculating and insinuating and implicating fit into that.

If we really want people to be drawn to Jesus (and all His goodness/grace/mercy), then we – the people who follow Him – ought to (at least try to) be good and gracious and merciful ourselves. If Christians aren’t the kind of people others are drawn to, then it would seem we’re not doing our job. (Love draws people in and makes them feel heard… seen… safe… special. Not scolded/slandered/dismissed/detested.)

News flash: We’re supposed to point people to Jesus by looking – and living – like He did.

There’s a surprising number of people who know something’s broken/wrong/ missing/stuck in their lives. And they’re just waiting for someone to introduce them to the One who can fix/forgive/fill/free them.

I’ve said this before (probably during the last election cycle) but I think it bears repeating:

My dear brothers and sisters, if we want to win some, we need to be…

Winsome.

Based on what I see on social media lately, I’d say we’re falling embarrassingly short.

I’ve seen some pretty insensitive/offensive/capricious remarks in response to people with differing views on COVID and the issues surrounding it. That over-the-top defensiveness smacks of pride… or paranoia. And it hurts my heart.

And really, what good does it do? The odds of convincing someone with an opposing view – on a platform like Twitter or Facebook – are next to nil.

Maybe these folks can’t find anything better to do.

Or maybe (after two months in lockdown) they’re starting to lose it.

(Coronanervousbreakdown?)

Ranting and raving rarely convince anyone of anything… except that the person doing it is out in left field (or right, as the case may be.) Explain how being argumentative – or spittin’ mad – is going to invite others to love and follow Jesus?

Can we all just take a deep breath… and a step back… and remind ourselves:

The enemy is… the enemy.

Not people created in God’s image and loved like crazy by Him. (Regardless of political perspective, party affiliation, personal preferences or past mistakes.)

We Christians need to pull it together (and pull together). We need to ask the Holy Spirit to empty us of ourselves and fill us full of His love. We need to listen and pray, give and forgive, serve and bless.

when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. ~ Galatians 5:22-23

Peace… not pot-stirring.

Patience… not pushback.

Kindness… not contempt.

Gentleness… not hostility.

Self-control… not volatility.

A friend of mine recently shared this quote from Oswald Chambers, and it struck a chord:

The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, nobler men and women; or they are making us more captious and fault-finding, more insistent upon our own way. The things that happen either make us fiends, or they make us saints; it depends entirely upon the relationship we are in to God. If we say — “Thy will be done,” we get the consolation of John 17, the consolation of knowing that our Father is working according to His own wisdom. When we understand what God is after we will not get mean and cynical. Jesus has prayed nothing less for us than absolute oneness with Himself as He was one with the Father. Some of us are far off it, and yet God will not leave us alone until we are one with Him, because Jesus has prayed that we may be. 

The response to this pandemic has elicited all kinds of politically-charged accusations and public shaming. I’m not denying there’s lots of lousy reporting, misinformation and not-so-hidden agendas – money and power come to mind – in both political parties and every media outlet around. But why this startling impulse (of some individuals) to push conspiracy theories and wild speculation and gloom-and-doom prognostication? 

None of it is helping. It’s not healing a single sick patient or helping a weary front-line worker or feeding a hungry family or lifting anyone out of despair.

So let me be the first to apologize.

To our doctors and nurses and pharmacists and first-responders.

To our grocery store workers and truck drivers and delivery people.

To our researchers and scientists and statisticians.

To my neighbors, friends and fellow citizens whose newsfeed looks uglier by the day.

And to those who have lost loved ones… or their livelihood.

I’m sorry.

Please don’t reject Jesus because of those who claim to follow Him including…

Yours Truly,

Wendy

P.S. I know I’ll probably get some grief for this post… and that’s okay. I may hear some explanations/generalizations/justifications like: “I want the truth! I’m just trying to educate people! Jesus spoke truth!”

Yes He did. (He IS truth.) But when Jesus spoke truth, it was thoroughly wrapped in humility and grace. He wasn’t presumptuous or pushy. Ever.

In fact, the only times He got really riled?

He was calling out…

Religious hypocrites.

*******

Father, forgive us.

 

All Kinds of Crazy

What a strange new world.

The rhythms and routines of daily life – once barely noticed – came to a screeching halt a few weeks back. And now the world as we knew it is suspended… indefinitely.

I don’t know about you, but my schedule looks vastly different than it did before March 13th. Except for showering and sleeping. Well… some days.

(Today is not one of them.)

It’s tough to get your bearings when you can’t see anything but the backyard or balcony. If you don’t have either, I pray for the preservation of your sanity. (Seriously.)

This is our new normal.

Personally, I’d like to get back to the old one. (Maybe with an extra helping of perspective. And heaping sides of gratitude and compassion.)

But I guess that isn’t an option. Not entirely anyway. Because this virus is taking a heavy toll.

I remember how different the world seemed after 9/11. Then – like now – most of us really came together. We cared… gave… grieved. We comforted and consoled.

And we counted the cost.

And here we are… counting again.

41,000 lives lost. (And by the time you finish reading this, it’ll tick even higher.)

That’s a whole lot of bereft families and broken hearts.

And that number doesn’t include the other victims of this crisis. The collateral damage, if you will.

I’m not minimizing the death toll. Not one iota. But I think maybe it’s time to acknowledge our other losses too. To say it’s ok to feel dazed/ disoriented by the far-reaching effects of this pandemic. It’s normal to feel discouraged/distressed about how different the future looks from just a few weeks ago. It’s understandable if you feel distraught/devastated… even if none of your loved ones have died from COVID-19.

This. Is. Hard.

And this “virtual” reality feels… well… unreal.

Trying to outlast this virus seems like a lost cause because folks are dropping every day. Not only those who die from Coronavirus but those who succumb in other ways.

To slashed income. Or domestic violence. Or burnout from working 12-hour shifts. Day after day. Week after week. (No relief in sight.)

There’s other unsettling fallout too. Like the shocking and sudden realization that there isn’t much you/I/we can control.

Like job security… financial security… food security.

There’s more than a little desperation going around. And nobody coming around. That’s a profoundly negative equation. (Isolation + desperation = unmitigated disaster.)

I think it’s high time the people who deliver the news start reporting (loud and clear) that we’re smack in the middle of another pandemic.

A mental health emergency.

This crisis has followed right on the heels of the contagious disease and even those who’ve outrun or recovered from Coronavirus are starting to feel the effects of its ruthless twin. Regardless of where we live, more and more are finding ourselves in…

An acutely SAD state.

(As in… Stressed. Anxious. Depressed.)

And who can blame us? Coping skills – in unprecedented global crises – can be scarce. And when there’s no place to go…

We go all kinds of crazy.

Relationships come unraveled. Sobriety is shattered. Suicides (and attempts) skyrocket.

How do we dig up some hope in all this wreckage? Where’s the steady calm when the whole world’s spinning out? Who’s got answers? And antidotes?

Anyone?

Human beings are pretty resilient and resourceful. But we’re not invincible. (We’re not infinitely clever/creative/capable either.) We don’t have enough willpower or prescience or inner zen to anchor ourselves (when we’re adrift) or find our way (when we’re lost) or develop a cure (for all that ails us).

Not one of us.

We need someone a whole lot stronger and smarter than our so-called best and brightest. We need a superhero.

A savior.

We need a hope-provider and healer. One that specializes in bodies, psyches and spirits. One that can fling stars and split atoms and soothe troubled souls.

Pretty sure every single one of us could use a good doctor/therapist/holistic healthcare provider right now.

Let me introduce you to a great physician and wonderful counselor.

His name is Jesus. And he can see you anytime.

He’s the answer and the antidote.

And he will carry us through.

You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times… So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does. (1 Peter 5:9-11, The Message)

Wendy

P.S. Please know I’m not trying to put a spiritual Band-aid on a severed artery. Stress, anxiety and depression are complex mental health issues with physical, emotional and spiritual causes and effects. (And God has given us amazing doctors/therapists/holistic healthcare providers to help us in times like this.) If you’re experiencing ongoing symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, please, please schedule a Telehealth appointment.

Stat.

Spooked

Everywhere I look, there seems to be a desperate lack of calm.

When did everybody become so tense/uptight/frazzled/frantic? Why the rapidly-mutating lack of tranquility? How did our collective stress level reach such dizzying heights?

We recite mantras like magic words:

Keep calm and carry on.

Too blessed to be stressed.

Just breathe.

But the knee-jerk reaction to anything unexpected, out-of-the-ordinary or beyond our comfort zone seems to be…

Panic!

(At the disco. Or anyplace else we happen to be.)

Even when all seems well, undetected stress simmering beneath the surface threatens to bubble over. Mild irritation turns to minor frustration… which becomes moderate agitation… which morphs into major aggravation…

Which inevitably spirals into a monstrous meltdown.

(Sometimes in a matter of minutes.)

Just watch the nightly news, and you’ll get a sneaking suspicion that our country is coming untethered; our communities are coming unhinged; families are coming unraveled… and people are coming unglued.

A smattering of this week’s headlines includes criminal sexual assaults, opiod overdoses, active shooters, adolescent suicides and road rage incidents. Scary, huh?

Mental health crises are commonplace. Depression is sharply on the rise. Anxiety is pandemic. And researchers are assigning some of the blame on the poison…

In the palm of our hands.

(And our children’s.)

One internet safety specialist wrote a book specifically addressing the pitfalls of smart-phones-for-all. It’s title? The Boogeyman Exists: And He’s in Your Child’s Back Pocket.

Spooked yet?

A former assistant to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “I am convinced the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc…”

Hmmm…

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying smartphones are altogether terrible/awful/evil. (I’m also not saying that handheld devices cause chemical imbalances. Of course not.)

I’m simply saying this:

Fingertip tech is – like so many other things – a blessing and a curse.

It’s a useful device and a terrible distraction. It connects us… and isolates us.

It gives us directions… and causes us to lose our bearings, somehow.

It gives us a sense of control… and makes us digital addicts.

Every-waking-hour data druggies.

(And sometimes when we’re trying to sleep too.)

Ding.

Buzz.

Zzzzz…

The truth is, most of us rarely unplug or power off. (Heck, we bristle at having to switch to “airplane mode” for a couple hours.)

*gut check*

We spend our days “drinking from a firehose” of digital data. Our brains are besieged by constantly-streaming information, ideas, images.

So.

Much.

Input.

The deluge of information in modern times by the media and other information sources has led to daily “bombing” of the average human brain with such a large volume of information which could overload even a powerful computer, according to information scientists. (Source: Tech 21 Century)

A study done by researchers at UCSD found that Americans took in five times as much information every day as they did in 1986 – the equivalent of 174 newspapers. During our leisure time, not counting work, each of us processes 34 gigabytes, or 100,000 words every day.  The world’s 21,274 television stations produce 85,000 hours of original programming every day, and on average, we watch five hours of television daily, the equivalent of 20 gigabytes of audio-video images. That’s not counting YouTube, which uploads 6,000 hours of video every hour. And computer gaming? It consumes more bytes than all other media combined including DVDs, TV, books, magazines, and the Internet. (Source: Telegraph UK)

I find these numbers astonishing. And a little unsettling.

But the really crazy thing?

This study was done 10 years ago. I’m guessing we far exceed those numbers in 2019.

And I can’t imagine it’s good for our brains. (My head hurts just thinking about this.)

So much media. So many messages. Some informative, some inflammatory. Some uplifting, some devastating. Some delightful, some dreaded.

Alerts come 24/7/365.

Some are smiley-face-heart-eyes-confetti-and-cake happy texts. Birthday messages and pizza promo codes and cute puppy videos.

(But then you throw in the can-of-worms commonly known as social media. The running commentary on FB/Twitter/Insta definitely doesn’t offer much insight. It mostly just incites. If you’re looking for a heaping dose of harsh criticism, complaints or judgment, you’ve come to the right place. Public humiliation… available to all… in the comfort of your own car/cubicle/condo. We’ve all been forewarned about the bad boys, mean girls, cyberbullies and predators. But what we’ve done – unwittingly, of course – is invited them into our daily conversation. Oh joy.)

Then there’s the garden-variety hassles. Notifications about bad grades, late fees, product recalls, cancelled meetings.

Most of us file these notifications right where they belong: the trash bin.

*delete*

*delete*

*delete*

But others strike fear in our hearts:

Biopsy results… Emergency alerts… Subpoenas.

Our constant connectivity is creating a sense of urgency (and yes, anxiety) that we struggle to shake.

Ding.

Buzz.

Gasp!

And in an effort to minimize our panic… some of us just completely disengage. We scroll, sigh, shrug. We watch from the sidelines and remain uninvested and uninvolved.

Are those the only options?

Perpetually panicked or utterly apathetic?

Sunday (and M/T/W/Th/F/Sa) Scaries… or Zombie Apocalypse?

(Cue the eerie sound effects… and the wicked laugh: Mwahahaha!)

Maybe this is a nightmare.

STAY WOKE, PEOPLE.

Put the freaking phone down.

Listen. Engage. Respond. Relate. Face-to-face… in real time.

Get your groove back.

(And your LIFE too.)

In the words of the uncannily clever Anne Lamott:

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… even you.

Power off and power nap. There’s a handy little setting on your phone:

Do not disturb.

(Perhaps you haven’t discovered it yet. Well, today’s your lucky – lifechanging! – day.)

Activate that sucker.

Or  better yet…

Unplug altogether.

Quiet the clamor and soak up some stillness.

There’s a powerful scripture that begins with two little words.

Be still.

It’s not a friendly suggestion or self-help step. It’s an explicit instruction from your Maker.

Be still…

(There’s more. It’s a two-part directive… feel free to keep reading: Psalm 46.)

Be still…

Linger there awhile. It’ll do your body, mind and spirit good.

Be still.

Do you hear that? It’s the rare, sweet sound of silence.

Do you sense it? Peace.

Soak it up, friends.

All will be well.

Wendy

P.S. Thanks for reading. Now… unplug, for heaven’s sake.

 

Punctuation & Continuation

Fall has arrived!

Along with peewee/high school/college/NFL football, Christmas countdowns and pumpkin spice everything.

And right on the heels of the autumnal equinox, we observe the “high holiday” of English teachers and content editors everywhere.

Today is National Punctuation Day.

Described as “a celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis,” this national punctuation celebration falls on the same day each year. (And it just so happens to coincide with the time period when teachers have been back in school long enough to feel utterly exasperated by the lack and/or grievous misuse of punctuation. So there’s that.)

Based on the text messages I receive daily from my teen and young adult children, I’m quite certain none of them observe this holiday. I, however, will celebrate National Punctuation Day with wild abandon and extra exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Because punctuation is important; that’s why. (Naysayers, be forewarned that you will be serving a life sentence inside some maximum security parentheses.)

If – like me –  you occasionally find yourself scrolling your social media feed while waiting at the dentist’s office or the DMV, you’ve probably seen memes that convey the necessity of properly placed punctuation. Like this one, which reads:

“I like cooking my family and my dog.”  Use commas. Don’t be a psycho.

(Good advice, I think.)

During my four years in journalism school at Northwestern, I spent countless hours poring over Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, studying the minutiae of tricky punctuation usage so as not to flunk Professor Hainey’s editing course and thereby derail my entire education and career. One stray comma or misplaced colon (insert pun here), and you were toast. Professor Hainey was a big fan of the dreaded-and-dastardly pop quiz. So you had to be prepared to remedy poor grammar and unruly punctuation at any moment. (Proper application of that divisive “dash” still perplexes – and pains – me.)

But long after gaining relative mastery over my commas and quotation marks, I discovered that I still had a lot to learn about one particular punctuation mark: the semicolon.

It was a tattoo that originally caught my eye. A wrist tattoo. Of a punctuation mark. That’s it. No anchor/arrow/angel/Angelina Jolie-inspired dragon (which was apparently regrettable since she later removed it.)  No paw prints or pink ribbon or rosebud or barbed wire. Just one simple, solitary semicolon. When I saw it, I knew it must mean something significant. So I did what I always do when I need wisdom and insight. I googled it.

That’s when I stumbled upon Project Semicolon.

And learned the meaning of the profoundly simple semicolon tattoo.

Unlike other impulsive, random and/or mystifying body ink trends, this tattoo has real significance. (And no, it’s not just the mark of a really committed grammar nerd.)

This mark represents mental health struggles and the importance of support (medical care/counseling/social-emotional support/therapies/self-care) for suicide prevention.

Project Semicolon was born from a social media movement in 2013:

“A movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-injury. Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love, and inspire.”

But why a semicolon?

A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.

Project Semicolon was founded by a young woman named Amy Bleuel who lost her father to suicide. Her memorial tribute to her dad soon became a social media movement, and she was struck by the way a simple puntuation mark resonated with people across the country and around the world. The semicolon became a means to acknowledge the struggles of depression, addiction, self-harm and suicide, and more importantly, it brought a measure of healing and hope to suicide survivors. The semicolon became a powerful reminder:

Your story isn’t over yet…

It became a “note to self” to just keep on…

To just; not; end;

To not believe depression’s convincing and consuming lies. That you are not loved. That there is no hope.

Because that couldn’t be further from the truth.

There is always hope.

And you are forever loved.

That’s the truth.

(Capital T. Exclamation point.)

So as I mentioned earlier, I will celebrate today. This lovely autumn day also known as National Punctutation Day. I will celebrate it and savor every single minute of it. The rising and shining and showering, the eating and drinking and dog-walking, the thinking and talking (hopefully in that order), the smiles and sandwiches and sweater weather. The friends and family coming and going. The leaf-raking and laundry (and the incredibly helpful, handsome man who folds it. He’s all mine.) The laughter and love… the life-living. And I will do it all today in memory of Eric Brown, Madison Holleran, Austin Hills, Will Trautwein and so many precious others who would still be with us, if only their young lives had been punctuated with a semicolon rather than a period.

Keep living your story,

Wendy

P.S. Sadly, Amy Bleuel lost her battle with depression and died by suicide in March 2017. If you or someone you know is in suicidal crisis (or at risk for any type of self-harm), please call 911 emergency services, contact a mental health professional immediately, go to the nearest hospital emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to be connected to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center near you.

 

 

 

School Supplies

Just got the automated voicemail message from our public school principal… and apparently I have 14 forms I need to fill out and 37 school supply items I need to purchase so my daughter can continue her formal education.

BRB.

(JK.)

Debating whether to delete the message, throw on my comfies and watch a couple episodes of “The Crown.” (Queen Elizabeth doesn’t do these ignoble tasks; why should I?) The thought of filling out all those forms… and then braving the back-to-school aisle…

Please pass the Excedrin Migraine.

Every year, I endure the frenzied dash and mad grab for backpacks and their contents: pencil pouches, pocket folders, page protectors, spiral notebooks, index cards, glue sticks, scissors, rulers, graph paper, Post-It notes, and 12 types of writing utensils: No. 2 pencils, colored pencils, crayons, red/blue/black pens, highlighters, dry erase markers, fine-line and wide-tip Sharpies, gel pens, charcoal pencils, styluses… and scented markers. (Brilliant. Let’s provide both a distraction and a gateway to huffing at the same time.)

And I think… Do these kids really need all that stuff?

I’ve been buying school supplies for a quarter century now. So I consider myself a back-to-school veteran of sorts. I’ve done multiple tours: preschool, elementary, middle school, high school and college. And I’ve suffered flesh wounds in the Battle of Dollar General.

And you know what I’ve come to realize?

My daughter needs me to supply her with far more than index cards and safety scissors.

Along with a handful of highlighters, she needs me to highlight and celebrate all the ways she’s learning and growing. Not just academically and intellectually. But relationally and spiritually. In discernment, compassion, grit, grace.

Along with a ruler, she needs me to measure her against herself, not compare her to her classmates, teammates or siblings.

Along with pink erasers, she needs me to teach her to learn from her mistakes… but leave her failures where they belong: in the past.

Along with fine-line markers, she needs me to teach her the fine line between humility and insecurity… And the verrrrryyy fine line between confidence and arrogance.

Along with Post-Its, she needs me to guide and keep an eye on her social media posts… and help her avoid the pitfalls of constant comparison and FOMO. And the Insta-filtered-and-fueled onslaught of self-objectification… self-doubt… and self-pity. (#triplethreat)

Along with a PE uniform, she needs me to provide an example of physical fitness, emotional wellness and spiritual strength. (And given the escalation of gun violence across the country, I’m inclined to provide body armor too. But that’s another blog for another day.)

The supplies my daughter needs most can’t be rung up at a register at Target.

We can’t just give our kids all the “stuff” and sign them up for all the “things” (while we remain distracted/stressed/emotionally unavailable)… and think they’re gonna turn out ok.

They won’t.

(The latest mental health statistics prove it.)

Kids – even high school kids – need this critical trio of “supplies” from their folks:

A sense of security. Which requires a fair amount of structure… and a whole lot of comfort, counsel, and clear – reasonable – expectations.

A safety net. Something to hold onto – and help them up – when they stumble or fall. A deep faith. A close-knit family. A supportive team. A circle of real, true-blue, faithful friends… not fakers/takers/heartbreakers. A passion for art, music, theater, ____________. Or all of the above.

And (here’s the biggie)…

The gift of time.

Twenty years ago (when we were young, relatively clueless parents), our pastor bestowed this pearl of wisdom:

Kids spell love T-I-M-E.

Though many would deny this (especially 13 – 17-year-old boys, in my experience) it’s the gift they want most. Our precious time.

Face time. Yes, this does in fact mean face-to-face, phones down, no distractions. I’ve come to realize that my full and undivided attention is a gift I give far too infrequently. I… we… must do better. Our kids deserve it.

Game time. True confessions: I’m not the “fun” parent around here. I’m the taskmaster and the bad cop. But I’m learning to let loose a little more… and I’m realizing that being silly and playing games and goofing around is pretty much every kid’s love language.

Down time. Kids need a break sometimes. Often, actually. Just like us, they need to unwind/rest/breathe/be still. (And contrary to popular belief, boredom can be a blessing.)

Hang time. If they want to invite friends over, count yourself blessed… and say YES.

(Just do it.)

Crunch time. Life is tough. Kids are pretty resilient but they have to learn how to meet challenges, fight through adversity… and face consequences. Consequences are good teachers. Parents who do an end run on behalf of their kids aren’t doing them any favors. They’re only delaying the inevitable setback… or suffering. Every once in a while, we all need some hard truth and tough love – pruning – so we can grow and bloom and flourish.

Quiet time. Actual silence. No Spotify or Netflix or YouTube videos. No earbuds or airpods or wireless speakers. No noise whatsoever. Because quiet invites…

Peace.

And that’s something you can’t buy in the back-to-school aisle either.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, fully-supplied school year!

Wendy

P.S. If you – like me – find yourself feeling under-stocked and ill-equipped to supply your kiddos with everything they need, I encourage you to go straight to the Distributor:

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

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.