World, Keep Running

Two days ago, I emailed my mom.

“Hi Mom, I have to do a marathon run in the morning on Saturday. Can I sleep over on Friday?”

Two minutes later, she replied: “Do you know what happen in Boston?”

——

As I’m writing this, the Boston terrorist manhunt has ended. The first suspect died late last night in a battle with police, and the second suspect has just been detained. Now they’re busy sorting out the details of the past few days, trying to figure out the why’s behind such a senseless act and the other who’s involved. Boston, and the rest of us for that matter, can rest a little easier tonight.

As for me, I can’t shake this so quickly. I’m running in an event tomorrow morning, and thoughts of terror quickly surface. What if they plant bombs on the road? What if I get shot by a sniper? Could my last day be tomorrow? This is what acts of terrorism do to you. They look to make you afraid. They try to rob you of your freedom. Soon, I am no longer living for today but arrested by the fear of no tomorrow.

The most sobering thing to me, in this whole tragedy, is my realization that terrorism is an immediate reality for some people living on the other side of the world. Random car bombings at the market. Girls targeted for attending school, trying to get an education. It seems like more people are resorting to violence, expressing their anger or ignorance in extreme ways. This is the new reality.

But in the midst of it all, this terribly mad world, I find a weird sense of calm. It’s like these events scream tragedy and injustice but somehow whisper simple truths. I could die tomorrow. Hell, I could die tonight. It could be from a terrorist attack or heart attack or car accident or simple slip in the shower. What are the odds? Apart from some divine authority you could say it’s a dice roll. In a world full of variables there is very little we truly control.

What I can control is what I’ve been given. Namely, my ability to live in the seconds and minutes–acknowledging that every breath is nothing short of miraculous–to be fully there and not elsewhere. To embrace my friends and family and strangers (and sometimes even enemies when I’m not so hung up with minor grievances) and continue to work, eat, drink, write, sleep, pray and worship. This is what I can do, and to do less than this because of the wicked minority is to allow fear into a place it does not belong. To live at all is to risk. To succumb to fear is to die small deaths long before your final breath.

Boston has taught us many things. One, it’s an unbelievably tough and resilient city. Two, you keep wicked calm and carry the hell on. I will run tomorrow. I will appreciate the ability to move my legs and, Lord willing, I will get through the race. And I will remember all those who suffered this past week. Terror has its moment but it will ultimately, and always, come in second place.

——

Later that day, I responded to my mom: “It’s not a marathon…sorry. I meant ‘mud run.’ It’s a shorter run and I think they’ll have tighter security. Don’t worry mom. God is in control.”

Mom: “ok, I’ll make the bed.”

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Newtown. in remembrance

newtown-memory

I am crushed.

Those are about the only words I could muster in the wake of the unthinkable tragedy that struck Newtown. In my adulthood I have been well acquainted with grief. I have observed it, felt it scratching and digging at the very fibers that string my life together. Still it is a language I could never capture. I suppose I’m not the only one. There are no words that can quite hold such weight of pain, loss, despair.

The news was both shocking yet all too familiar in our nation’s recent history. A man walked into an elementary school and gunned down 26 people, most of whom were children ages 6 and 7. Just like that. Kids who woke up that morning thinking about their next game of handball at recess, or daydreaming about the end of the day so their parents could take them to see all the nicely decorated houses and trees in the neighboring town–gone. Kids whose lives had just begun, their futures now violently robbed. Hughes spoke of dreams deferred; these bullets demolished them.

That same night I had been asked by my pastor to do a reading of my children’s book to the kids at our church staff Christmas party. Could I tell you how it felt to look into those precious souls and consider that it could have been any one of them? In one demonic fit of madness it could have been Grant or Wes or Jaron or Natty. Or all of them. I sat there, going through my words, turning page by page, reading from a book that I had written to build education and inspire life. I had always considered the war to be fought in the battlegrounds of the heart and mind; never did I think we’d have to protect our classrooms from madmen and their bullets. I wonder if I’m in the wrong business. If I’m supposed to explode guns and exorcise men who are battling some serious demons.

Newtown, I observe you, I remember you, but I have no words for your grief. I know your pain is immeasurable beyond that. I can only pray for brighter days, a greater hope, a comfort that transcends understanding.¬†Perhaps my sentiments are best echoed by our president when he says: “Whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide … Newtown, you are not alone.”

In Remembrance Of 9/11

Today we remember all those who lost their lives nine years ago in the tragedy of 9/11. We remember the fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters of all those who are still grieving their lost loved ones. We pray an extra blessing for you on this day.

We remember the firefighters, policemen, and other nameless heroes on that morning. They displayed unbelievable amounts of sacrifice and courage to save many others.

We also celebrate how, as a nation, we are still breathing and living and going on. We will only use this tragedy to fuel our passion to conquer hate with love and ignorance with knowledge.

“They may take our lives but they will never take OUR FREEDOM.”