Thoughts and Prayers –
I have to admit I am sick of the phrase; “Thoughts and prayers,” which inevitably occur each and every time there is a mass shooting in our country. As of yesterday, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, a total of 30 mass shooting incidents have occurred as of February 14, 2018, including Wednesday’s school shooting in Florida. Thirty! That’s almost 1 every day. Following these mass killings, politicians play two cards; “Thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” followed by; “Now’s not the time to talk about gun control and what we can do to stem the tide of gun violence in our nation.” Every time one of these politicians speak these words or ones like them I almost throw the remote at the TV. Kids are dying! Most of these politicians are pro-life, anti-abortion, but somehow someway they play a Jedi-mind trick with themselves and see these as two separate issues. I can’t do that, I won’t do that. Something needs to be done.
I am acutely aware of the mental health angle and the restriction for individuals who mentally should not own a gun. I understand waiting periods for guns and background checks but we must do more. Our children are dying! The National Rifle Association is a powerful entity. They lobby and support many politicians:
La. Sen. Bill Cassidy, tweets his sympathy and prayers – received $2,800,000 from NRA.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman tweets prayers – received $3,000,000 support from NRA.
Iowa Rep., Janie Ernst tweets, join me in prayer – received $3,100,000 from NRA.
Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio tweets, a terrible day you pray never comes – received $3,300,000 from NRA.
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner tweets, heartbreak and prayers – received $3,900,000 from NRA.
Az. Rep. John McCain tweets his prayers – received $7,700,000 from NRA.
Fla. Gov. Rick Scott ordered flag to be lowered for senseless tragedy – received A+ rating from NRA.
V.P. Mike Pence tweets heartache and prayers – received A+ rating from NRA.
Donald J. Trump tweets his prayers – received more than $21,000,000 from NRA in 2016 election.
I don’t know what to do. People smarter than me have been trying and yet for some reason are met at every turn with obstruction and obfuscation. I also want to know where the church is on this?!?! It’s clear to me Jesus never condoned violence of any kind and sticking up for the poor, down-trodden, innocent ones was his mission and should be ours. We’ll stand on a street corner with pro-life signs, slap a pro-life bumper sticker on our car but few vote for stricter gun laws.
I don’t want to start a debate. I want a solution. I want kids to stop dying and the church be silent no more. The youngest and brightest among us are dying. Thoughts and prayers do nothing without actions backing them up. Do something or stop saying it!
Not Alone –
He sat alone in the classroom today, save the examiner, and took his High School Equivalency exam. I sat alone watching him think, strain to recall what he had been taught over the past months. My class for incarcerated fathers was scheduled to begin but this lone test taker was holding us up. That was okay. What he was doing was as important as what we do in our class. We strive to make men good and into good fathers. He was taking a test that would better him and his family. He sat there with no one around him but I knew he wasn’t alone. Good thoughts, prayers, and best wishes were being sent his way by those who had tutored, encouraged and convinced him he could be more, do more and his life wasn’t a throwaway. I knew he was nervous by the way he checked and rechecked his answers, glancing up at the clock which ticked away his test time.
Finally, he finished and hesitantly handed in his exam. A few words to the examiner and he exited the classroom. “How’d it go?” I asked. “I hope good,” was his answer. We chatted a few moments and then he went back to his cell. As he exited the door I knew the hopes and dreams of not just him were wrapped up in that test. I also knew he wasn’t alone and sometimes that’s enough to give us the courage to do what we wouldn’t ever do otherwise.
The Way Out –
Yesterday evening Beth stopped by my office to see me (and give me some sugar!). After a while, she hopped back into her car and I got in my truck. She began to drive out the main entrance. I tried to warn her with hand signals not to go that way but she didn’t notice me. I, on the other hand, went another way to avoid all the traffic that bottles up at the main entrance, this time, every work day. After almost two years I knew to avoid it and how. As I made two quick turns I passed Beth who was still sitting in line and waved. I called her and she asked; “How did you get in front of me?” “Took a different, better way to get out as quick as possible,” I said. She laughed and I told her I would see her following a class I was teaching in the evening.
As I drove past her I thought of one of my favorite wisdom proverbs;
A man was walking down the street and fell into a big hole. Try as he might, he couldn’t get out. He heard someone passing above, it was a professor. “Hey, Sir! Can you get me out of here? I’m stuck.” he yelled! The professor threw down a book on philosophy and existentialism and kept on walking. Our man heard another person approaching, it was a priest. “Hey, Padre! Can you help me out? I’m stuck!” The priest wrote out a prayer and dropped it into the hole. The next guy was a good friend and the man yelled out; “Hey Joe! Please, I’m desperate. Please help me out of this hole.” The friend looked down and then proceeded to jump down in the hole. The man was flabbergasted! “What’d you do that for? Now we’re both stuck.” Joe smiled and said; “Relax. I’ve been in this hole before and I know the way out.”
The road of life is filled with u-turns, yields, long boring stretches, deep holes and exciting hairpin turns. Traveling with those who know the way is always better than traveling alone.
Never Alone –
Yesterday I wrote an anxious post about going to the dentist (https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/07/20/an-anxious-word/). Everything turned out okay. The procedure went fine. I explained to the doctor when I met him a few months ago about my claustrophobia and anxiety disorder. He was more than understanding and went out of his way to make sure I was comfortable. He even allowed Beth to come in to the room stand by my side when I was struggling to stay in the chair during the most painful and invasive part of the surgery. When Beth and I arrived home I crawled in the bed and have slept most of the last two days.
In between my drug induced naps I’ve thought about Beth and the dentist giving me all of the support I needed while going through this traumatic event. They both asked me often; “If I was doing okay? Did I need to take break? Was I okay to continue?” They knew it was my hardship to endure but they made sure I knew I was never alone.
Often times people we love and care for experience dangerous and debilitating seasons and moments. Our first desire is to take their pain away, battle their demons for them. However, most times we don’t have the ability to suffer in their place. What we can do is be there, for as long as they need, find out what we can to help and do it. Above all, by our presence and prayers let them know they are never alone.
An Anxious Word –
I didn’t sleep well last night. I am facing a real fear today. At 9:00AM I will be walking into a dentists’ office for oral surgery. There are a lot of people who are afraid of the dentist but for me; someone who’s diagnosed with severe anxiety and clinical claustrophobia, there is a growing anxiety and sense of dread that’s been building for several days. Beth has taken the day off to help me through this which is one more reason I love being married to someone who accepts me and all my baggage.
Waking up early this morning, after a night of tossing and turning, I sat on the couch and began the morning portion of the Daily Office. The first words each day are; “Let’s begin our morning in silence.” I took deep breaths and, like everyday, recited a section of my favorite Psalm, 46, which says; “Be still and know.” Then my prayers and readings began. I have most of the Daily Office memorized after many years of using it but the chosen Psalm for the day was a surprise. It was Psalm 46. I recognized it immediately and the words gave me a greater sense of calm and assurance. It was a settling word in the deep places where my anxiety seems to flow from…it didn’t take away the fear but it gave me wisdom, truth, to counter the fear within.
I don’t know what kind of shape I’ll be in the rest of the day so I wanted to write this post out of thankfulness for God’s word always being what my soul needs to hear and to ask, if you think of me, please say a prayer.