Monday, January 28, 2013

Ads Gone Wild. . . Super Bowl Commercials and Why We're Nuts. . . .

"Commercials" used to be a dirty word. They interrupted our television watching. They were an excuse to get up and get a snack or go to the bathroom. And if you didn't get up during the commercials, you certainly didn't pay attention. More recently, we (as in all of us. . . including people in my family) would complain about having to adjust the volume on our TV whenever a louder-than-life (certainly louder than whatever it was that we were watching!) commercial started blasting away in an effort to get our attention, time, and money. Then, thanks to a government ruling, that all changed a few months ago, with broadcasters (do we still call them that in the digital age????) being required to turn it down on their end. I'm not sure that's really happened. . . as the ads are still coming through my speakers more loud and more clear than we need or want them to be. The squeaky wheel gets the grease as the old saying goes. Or, he who makes the most noise is the most heard. With hundreds of thousands of marketers trying to peddle their wares, they need to scream over top of each other. . . at us.

And that's what the Super Bowl has become. It's not so much about the game these days. The game is rapidly becoming a side-show to the real events. . . a halftime extravaganza ("Is she really singing??") and lots of commercial debuts. If you don't believe it, then consider this fact - this year it's costing $4 million for a 30-second ad slot! Why? Because we love the ads. We've been lulled into willing consumerism. We've been effectively marketed to for so long that we love being marketed to. We're nuts. Super Bowl commercials are such a big deal that many of the commercials are being previewed and pre-released. Go ahead. . . do a Google search on Super Bowl commercials and you can spare yourself the misery of waiting for Sunday to arrive.

We had a conversation last week with a youth worker who's facing the dilemma of all Super Bowl dilemmas. . . should I or shouldn't I let my kids watch the commercials at our Super Bowl party? We've got an answer. . . or maybe more accurately a question about that. . . "Why not? Why wouldn't you let your kids watch the commercials?"

For the last several years, we've been recommending that youth workers and parents use the Super Bowl commercials as a redemptive opportunity to teach kids about marketing. Talk about why it costs so much, why it's so effective, and how it's done. We think this weekend provides a great opportunity to teach/disciple kids into a Gospel-centered understanding of marketing. You should be processing the Super Bowl commercials through a Biblical world and life view. After all, we want our kids to filter and view all of life through that Biblical world and life view. We want them to manage advertising rather than having advertising manage them. This is a skill that has to be developed in our consumer/market-driven culture.

Once again, we've put together a handout that you can use with the kids you know and love. . . "CPYU's Ad Filtering Questions for Super Bowl XLVII." Go ahead. . . use it. Then let us know how it all worked out.

And here's one of the best-ever. . . from 33 years ago. . . hard to believe!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Weekend Pause. . . with Metaxas and Bonhoeffer. . .

You'll no doubt be sitting around a bit over the last couple of days. . . it's the weekend. . . you'll watch TV. . . waste a little time maybe in front of the TV. . . I know. . . I do it all the time. Why not redeem the time by watching something that will feed your soul, challenge your mind, and lead you to deeper faith?

I've got just the thing for you. During our latest Doctor of Ministry in Ministry to Emerging Generations residency at Gordon-Conwell we had our cohort read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship. It's a classic. It's challenging. It will rattle your 21st century understanding (mis-understanding???) of what it means to follow Jesus. It's a book about walking your talk by a guy who walked his talk. . . right to his death. Dr. Adonis Vidu, one of my co-leaders with our DMin cohort, had us watch this wonderful interview with Eric Metaxas, author of what has become the best-selling and definitive biography of Bonhoeffer. I've watched this video a couple of times over the last few weeks. It encouraged and challenged me. And so, I pass it on to you.

Take some time and give this a look. I love the fact that Bonhoeffer was always a step ahead of the times in his understanding of what was unfolding in the world and in the church. That's a resolve and skill that's desperately needed today. We need minds that can sort out what's happening and then respond. It will require a willingness to go against the flow. . . in both the world and the church. And, it might even cost you your life.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Time Flies. . . Don't Miss It. . .

Twenty-five years ago right now I was walking on air! I was getting ready to leave Abington Hospital outside of Philly. Inside, my wife was holding our just-born third child. . . a girl. . . Bethany. . . meaning that Josh and I were outnumbered in our house, three to two. Outside, the ground was blanketed in a fresh coat of snow. All was right in the world. 

Today, Bethany celebrates her 25th birthday. Snow is falling outside once more. . . which helps to remind me of that day back in 1988. The little girl who brother Josh called "Bessie Hope" is now grown-up. . . a school teacher. . . living on her own. . . an adult. Where did the time go?

As I stop and think back on that day and all that's happened since, these are some of my thoughts. . . and I pass them on as they may help you to get the much-needed perspective I always need. . .
  • Yes, time does fly. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 103:15, our "days are like the grass." God has numbered our days and they do fly by. Sure, when you're a kid waiting on a summer afternoon for the ice cream man to show up seems like forever. As you get older you realize just how short our time here is. This isn't a sentimental lament on my part. . . just a realization of the truth. . . a truth that should cause us to treasure every moment we're given.
  • Your kids grow up fast. Don't blink or you'll miss it. And don't let your job, your hobbies, your TV, your cell phone, your computer. . . your anything. . . divert your attention away from these dear little ones that become big ones in no time.
  • Your kids are not your own. They've been stewarded to you by God. Don't fall into the trap of "wearing" them like status objects before a world that you think is watching you. . . as that world watches them. No, they belong to God. Our job is to do with them what He wills. 
  • Ponder what God has done in your kids' lives. Anything good. . . well, don't go patting yourself on the back. That's purely by the grace of God. Seriously.
  • It's character that counts. We're told in I Samuel 16:7 that we human beings get hung up on the wrong stuff. . . stuff like the outside. God, however, looks on the important stuff. . . the stuff that should be important to us as well. . . the stuff of the heart. . . the inside stuff. And if there's anything good there. . . well, that is purely by the grace of God.
  • Take lots of pictures. Memories fade. Pictures keep those memories alive. 
I was looking through some pictures of Bethany this morning. I came across one of my all-time favorites so I thought I would put it up here. I remember when it was taken. . . I can hear the place and smell the place. A lake in Maine. Vacation. Seems like yesterday.

A message to all you young parents out there. Time flies. Don't miss it. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Snapchat and Kids. . . .

We had some discussions last week about this popular new photo-sharing app that's sweeping through youth culture. I want to make you aware of it. Here's a little video you can watch to get you started. . . .

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Youth Ministry and The Butterfly Effect. . .

I love the difficult questions because they make me think. For the last couple of weeks I've been blessed to spend time every day with a room full of thinking people who minister to children, teens, young adults and their families. We're at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary on the beautiful North Shore of Boston (yes, it's very easy to go to school in a place that looks like this!) for an intensive residency as students work towards their Doctor of Ministry degree in Ministry to the Emerging Generations. While I'm a member of the three-headed teaching team that includes Duffy Robbins and Adonis Vidu, I'm blessed to be learning and stretched in ways that I hope will make be a better follower of Jesus Christ and a better ministry practitioner.

The practices of ministry have been our focus in this our third and final residency.We're asking ourselves the hard questions about what we call evangelism and discipleship. One of the tensions we've wrestled with over the last three years is that tension between width and depth. While I know it isn't really fair to simplify width and depth to an either-or kind of thing, it is a balance that we have to think through. In other words, should we focus our ministry efforts (church, youth group, etc.) on strategies and practices that fill the room, or should we focus on taking people who have decided to commit to "live" in the room, deep?

Those of you in youth ministry are no doubt familiar with my friend Duffy Robbins. Duffy has been thinking and teaching about these things for years. Yesterday Duffy reminded our students of some basic principles that relate to ministry numbers. Maybe you've heard Duffy say that "what you win them with is what you win them to." In other words, if we adopt at attractional model that uses magnetic props/experiences to get them in the door, they'll be drawn to the magnet and not necessarily to Jesus. Or, as Duffy reminds us, "If you win them with pizza you've won them to pizza." Duffy also talked about how focusing on spiritual depth and discipleship can be a numbers killer. The deeper we go, the fewer the people we'll have in the room who will go deep with us. 

We've had some stimulating and theologically deep conversations about these matters with this cohort of doctoral students. These aren't easy questions and we rarely all agree, but they are questions we need to be asking. This year we've consulted with some great writers who have led us into pondering the why and how of what we do. . . people like Gordon Smith, Eugene Peterson, N.T. Wright, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Dallas Willard. In his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, Willard has a little section under the heading "Christian Leaders Responsible for the Future of the World" . . . that's on page 245ff if you're following along at home! What Willard says here is worth thinking about as we ponder how we do ministry in our unique ministry settings. He says, " . . . the responsibility for the condition of the world in years or centuries to come rests upon the leaders and teachers of the Christian church. They alone have at their disposal the means to bring the world effectively under the rule of God." Simply stated, what I plan to do in youth group tonight and how I choose to do it has deep deep implications for the future. . . a kind of "butterfly effect" if you will. 

Willard goes on to challenge the sacred cow of ministry bigness that we are prone to relentlessly pursue on our contemporary ministry landscape: "Ministers pay far too much attention to people who do not come to services. Those people should, generally, be given exactly that disregard by the pastor that they give to Christ. The Christian leader has something much more important to do than pursue the godless. The leaders task is to equip the saints until they are like Christ (Eph. 4:12), and history and the God of history waits for him to do this job. It is so easy for the leader today to get caught up in illusory goals, pursuing the marks of success which come from our training as Christian leaders or which are simply imposed by the world. It is big, Big, always BIG, and BIGGER STILL!. That is the contemporary imperative. Thus we fail to take seriously the nurture and training of those, however few, who stand constantly by us."

Think about what Willard says. I wonder, is it possible to have too many kids in youth group? Too many students in the campus fellowship? Too many people in church?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cheating, Baseball (Bonds, Clemens, Sosa. . .), and Our Kids. . . .

This time it was the baseball writers throwing a shutout. And the shutout was thrown against baseball players hoping to score on their eligibility for baseball's Hall of Fame. It's a complex process and formula that takes too long to explain here. But guys like Hall-of-Famer and old-timer Al Kaline believe that the process worked this time around, making the shutout a good thing. Kaline, like many of the rest of us, think that if a player has inflated their ability and statistics by inflating themselves with steroids - something that happened in what is now being called baseball's "steroid era" - then you don't deserve a spot among baseball's greatest. After yesterday's results (or non-results) were revealed, Kaline said, "I'm kind of glad that nobody got in this year. I feel honored to be in the Hall of Fame. And I would've felt a little uneasy sitting up there on the stage, listening to some of these new guys talk about how great they were. . . I don't know how great some of these players up for election would've been without drugs. But to me, it's cheating."

Think about Kaline's last few words. . . "to me, it's cheating." They're quite telling. We live in a day and age where the definition of cheating is up for grabs. The line on what constitutes cheating is fluid. No longer is there a commonly held standard to which we can all appeal and judge both our own behaviors and the behaviors of others. That's a sign of the times. The debate in baseball isn't so much about whether or not the guys who got shut out (Clemens, Bonds, Sosa. . . ) used steroids, but if their steroid use was wrong.

That debate, sadly, is going to continue for awhile. My guess is that sooner or later standards will loosen and behaviors will be forgotten, even before people think to forgive them. In the meantime, I think it's good to use this story as a prompt for discussions on cultural attitudes and personal behavior. You see, whether or not we think these guys were right or wrong, they did serve as heroes and role models to an entire generation of kids. . . mostly boys and young men. And when young dreamers stand on the diamond pretending to be Barry Bonds, the emulation usually extends beyond what the guy could do with a bat and a glove. Our heroes and role models are complete people, meaning that there's always much more to them than who they are when they've got their uniform on. In fact, they spend most of their time out of uniform. . . and in our media-saturated world, that time is spent in front of a watching world almost as much as when they're on the field.

The good news on kids and ethics is that there seems to be a decline in lying, cheating and stealing for the first time in ten years. In their latest edition of their annual survey of high school students, the Josephson Institute of Ethics tells us this:

  • In 2010, 59 percent of students admitted to cheating on an exam in the last year. In 2012, that rate had dropped to 51 percent.
  • Students who said they had lied to a teacher in the past year about something significant dropped from 61 percent in 2010 to 55 percent in 2012.
  • In 2010, 27 percent of the students said they had stolen something from a store in the past year. In 2012 that number dropped to 20 percent.
On the one hand, this good news should make us happy. But are these numbers reflective of an increase in conformity to unchanging ethical standards, or are they a reflection of conformity to lowered/changing ethical standards? In other words, has the definition and understanding of what constitutes lying, cheating, and stealing changed? If that's the case, then our kids (and the rest of us) could actually be lying, cheating, and stealing at a higher rate. I don't at all mean to sound skeptical, but these are questions we should be asking.

In spite of what really sits behind the statistics one thing is for sure: that is, that we need to embrace, teach, and live out the highest standards of ethical behavior in order to both glorify God and teach our kids.

There will be a celebration and induction ceremony at The Baseball Hall of Fame later this year. There just won't be any living players standing on the stage. The three inductees include three men who have been dead for at least 70 years: Yankees' owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O'Day, and catcher Deacon White. The amazing thing about White is that throughout his career as a major league catcher, he did it all bare-handed. . . and that without steroids! Wow. . . just one game of that should get you into the Hall of Fame!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"Guns don't kill people - our sons do" . . . .

That was the headline over Warren Farrell's op-ed piece in yesterday's USA Today. Farrell has written on the development of boys in modern American culture, so these are issues he's been addressing for awhile, making this something more than a knee-jerk reaction to the Newtown, Connecticut shootings. While I haven't read everything that's been penned or listened to every critique since that sad and distressing event, I would say that Farrell is wandering through the right forest on his search for answers, if not already barking up one of the right trees in his search for answers. Here's why. . .

First, Warren Farrell knows that this isn't a one-cause issue. We don't live in a world where everything was just right until the first assault weapon left the factory, the first little boy put his pudgy little fingers on a video game controller, or the first group of adolescents started drinking. It's just not that simple. Rather, Farrell points to a multitude of factors that have converged (including those just mentioned), making this a complex perfect storm. Eliminating or addressing just one of the many "storm fronts" isn't going to provide a solution. It might be a step in the right direction, but it isn't going to solve the problem.

Second, Farrell points to issues that are more systemic than circumstantial. As one who has focused on the issues related to the transition of adolescent males into adulthood, Farrell posits that in our society, "the road to successful manhood has crumbled." While some might call that a sexist conclusion, it's actually rooted in fact. Far from being comprehensive in its analysis, Farrell's short USA Today piece lists some of the factors that have converged, it's worth reading and pondering.

Third, Farrell points to the breakdown of the family - specifically divorce and the loss of involved fathers - as  a main factor in where we're at with our kids. Judith Wallerstein would agree. She set out in the early 1970s to engage in social science research that would prove the rather quick resiliency of kids whose parents had divorced. To her surprise, she quickly disproved her hypothesis, resulting in a resolve to spend the rest of her life trumpeting the negative effects of family breakdown and divorce. In a world where roughly 40% of our children and teens go to bed in a home where their father does not live . . . well. . . maybe we shouldn't be surprised at how our kids are living in that world. If you haven't read Judith Wallersteins' The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, I recommend that you do.

Again, I don't think that Farrell is exhaustive in his analysis nor is he totally correct, but there's much to think about here. His piece did remind me of one factor that many people forget, fail to recognize, or just flat out deny. It's the most basic of all factors. If we really want to work on resolutions, societal transformation, and cultural analysis in accurate ways, there's a foundational starting point - that when present - gives accurate perspective. When absent at the foundation, we build strategies on presuppositions that doom our efforts. Here it is. . . we have to remember that the foundational problem facing our trigger-happy boys is the foundational problem facing our girls is the foundational problem facing adults. . . is the foundational problem facing every human being who has ever walked the face of the earth with one exception. Our foundational problem is our sin. If we understand that our default setting is badness even though we have the capacity for goodness (thanks be to God for common grace or we'd be in even more of a mess than we already are!). . . well. . . our analysis and our solutions can be humbly tweaked to become more accurate, more realistic, more comprehensive, and more effective.

The fact is that we do live in a world where everything was just right, until we decided that we knew how to take what we had been given and do it our own way. The first three chapters of Genesis tell that story. And we have to tell, re-tell, and ponder that story if we've got any chance of getting anything right now. Perhaps all of our post-Newtown strategy sessions need to start with a reading of that story.

This most basic of all of our problems will continue to eat away at us until what once was will be again. When human history finishes its march from the first chapters of Genesis with the realization of what's described in the last chapters of Revelation. . . well. . . it will all be fixed. Until then, we should rejoice that there are parents, youth workers, grandparents, teachers, counselors, pastors, neighbors and friends who are  learning, telling and living that story. If you fall into one or more of those categories, you are so very very important! And while we're doing that, we need to be thinking, strategizing and doing based on what we know to be true. Together we must pray and then live these words taught to us by Jesus: "Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven."

I'm not saying it's simple. I'm just saying it's the place where we need to go to regroup, reboot, and start.

Friday, January 4, 2013

It Was Prophetic. . . How A 28-Year-Old Music Video Brings Tears To The Eyes. . .

So I'm sitting around the other day. . . waiting for my family to get ready to leave for a short trip in the car. I flip on the television in an effort to pass time and eliminate boredom. . . and my impatience. I hit the remote button that says "On Demand." I scroll through to "music" thinking that I can catch a few videos. I'm intrigued by the "VH1 Classics" option and take the bait. I find myself scrolling through and watching "80's Video Hits" . . . a trip down memory lane into those early years of music video. . . complete with all kinds of big hair on women and men alike.

After watching (and even giggling) at a few of the choices, I decide to watch the video for Tina Turner's hit song, "Private Dancer." Remember that one? I remember the song. . . it's catchy. What I didn't remember was the video. . . or the lyrics. . . or even the editorial bent of the song. I guess there's something that the passing of time, the addition of some maturity (I hope!), and a good dose of cultural change does to the way you watch, listen to, and process stuff like this. Watching Turner sing "Private Dancer" was - dare I say - sadly moving as I thought about it in today's cultural context.

The song - written by Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler - is sung from the perspective of a prostitute who makes her money giving lap dances. In today's world of music and media (more on that in a minute) it would be reasonable to assume that a song of that type would lack any negative value judgments and perhaps even glorify fallen expressions of sexuality. But that's not the case with "Private Dancer." Just give the video a watch. . . and pay special attention to the empty, yearning, and redemption-hungry eyes, tone, posture, and words of Tina Turner. Look at her tears as the video comes to an end. Turner is making a loud statement that needs to be seen and heard.

And now that we are living in the year 2013 with a much-needed awareness of and growing sensitivity to the issue of sexual trafficking. . . wow! Sure, this isn't a video about children, girls, teens, or women who are forced into this kind of life. Turner's character has chosen this life. But the emptiness and enslavement is so very evident. Turner is showing and telling her viewers that there's nothing at all that's redemptive or good about this life.  Just consider the song's lyrics:

Well the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don't look at their faces
And you don't ask their names
You don't think of them as human
You don't think of them at all
You keep your mind on the money
Keeping your eyes on the wall

I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
I'll do what you want me to do
I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
And any old music will do

I wanna make a million dollars
I wanna live out by the sea
Have a husband and some children
Yeah, I guess I want a family
All the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don't look at their faces
And you don't ask their names

Deutschhmarks or dollars
American Express will do nicely, thank you
Let me loosen up your collar
Tell me, do you wanna see me do the shimmy again?

After processing Tina Turner's "Private Dancer" again this morning, I noticed that Google was telling me that young R&B singer Chris Brown also has a song of the same title. Thinking that Brown may have covered Turner's version, I gave it a listen. It's not the same song. Rather, Chris Brown provides evidence of just how much how culture has changed (or perhaps, hasn't!) in his misogynistic and deeply troubling lyrics:

Yeah I would like this dance little mama
I thought you'd never ask, I got a lotta cash
Especially enough for ya, yeah
'cause you're the hottest thing up in this club
I can tell when you hit the stage, baby you gettin' paid
You're booty is a money magnet,
You... lookin' like Jessica Rabbit,
Puttin' these... other chicks in they casket, yeah

Here go a G stack, come sit on my lap
Now lemme tell you what I'm here for
Makin' you fill this position
And baby girl you fit the description yeah

Private dancer, my private dancer
Said you gon' be my private dancer
Just pack your things up 'cause your coming home wit me
My private dancer, my private dancer
You gon' be my private dancer
Just pack your things up 'cause your coming home wit me

I can quadruple what you're makin'
I'll make your job description so clear
You ain't gotta worry 'bout your boss, I already paid him off my dear
See I got a mansion in a Hampton's in a club and a back bar tender
Dinner and a chef, what else do you really need
Its your show, where anything goes
You ain't gotta worry , you can lose control
I - I - I be, I be in the strip club wit my hands up
Trickin' like I'm flippin' I be spinnin' all my ends up
Even if I never leave my seat she make me stand up
See, that's why I could never move to Atlanta
All about her bucks you would think she came from Tampa
She stay on that new shit no wonder why she pamper
Get it, she gon' she gon' let me hit it
I can't wait til we alone 'cause I want your full attention
We can take this to my crib gotta stripper pole up in it
G-G-Girl you know I love it when you pop that shit for pimpin'
(Ha), my private dancer (Yeah), you the realest
Imma call ya franchise (Why), 'cause you could get the business

Sexual trafficking takes many forms, doesn't it? And even when someone isn't being held against their own will, they are still enslaved to sin and the destruction it brings. Any and all sexual trafficking is ugly. Just something to think about. . .

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Newtown Returns to School. . . .

As time has passed, I've done some deep pondering and soul-searching regarding the best way to respond to high profile tragedies. . . particularly those like the horrifying December 14th massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Over the years, I've watched  as attention-seeking vultures descend almost instantaneously for reasons that I don't fully understand. In today's media and social media saturated world, those seeking an opportunity to grow their audience through pronouncements and opinionating are afforded a stage. It runs the gamut from the endless and dramatically-staged (and usually ridiculous) speculating of 24-hour news outlet hosts, to the "experts" who throw bits and pieces to their Facebook and Twitter followers, to those who choose simply to post their lay opinions on YouTube.

As the Sandy Hook students and their families load up this morning for their first day back at school, I believe this is the best time to say things. . . and only those things that are truly worth saying. Let me confess that for me personally, it was difficult to keep quiet. After all, we talk about these kinds of things here at CPYU, we've got an audience that's usually eager to listen, and there's that personal ego-fueled temptation to weigh in so that your own voice can be heard. Still, I knew that the right thing to do is to remain quiet. I believed that same thing back during Columbine, and I'm even more certain of it now as I think about how our media culture has changed since then.

Communities need time to be with themselves in the wake of these things. They need to listen to each other. They need to have their own embedded helpers help. They need to talk, cry, and pray amongst themselves. They need to bury their dead without all the attention. And they need to be able to take their first steps back to living their lives. What they don't need is a host of self-proclaimed or recognized "experts" descending on them either in the flesh or electronically. . . unless of course, they ask them to be there.

There are lots of reasons why our nosiness and noisiness need to be squelched. As I already mentioned, the healing process doesn't need our intrusive noses and noise. We need to rise above the temptation to build our audiences. . . and then we need to remain quiet. . . with the only noise being the noise of our prayers on their behalf. And, our emotions need to settle so that when the time is right to speak, we've had some time to think, pray and process the story. To speculate on facts, motives, and outcomes in the heat of the moment and from afar is horribly irresponsible. It hurts victims and their families. It muddies the waters. It can even impede and derail the efforts of law enforcement and the effective workings of our judicial process.

Now that we're almost three weeks past the shootings in Newtown, here are some random thoughts I've been processing for the last 21 days. They are admittedly incomplete. Still, I think that's OK. Who can truly understand and sort out the "whats?" and "whys?" and "hows?" of this story and others like it? After all, we're not God. . . which is something we all need to realize before we open our mouths in response to these types of things. So here's a short summary of just a few of my thoughts as I process it all theologically. . . and I'd like to hear what you're thinking. . .

  • There's nothing new under the sun. These types of things have been happening since our first ancestors decided to do their thing and shalom came undone. We may personally and locally experience horror that we've never personally experienced before, but none of it is new even though it may be new to us.
  • We all want to blame someone or something. We all want to find an easy and quick answer. There's not any kind of legislation or legislation of anything that can stop the human heart from doing what it wants. (By the way. . . I'm not a gun owner nor am I speaking in veiled ways solely about gun control legislation.)
  • We are all horribly broken people who live in a horribly broken world. We shouldn't be surprised? Yes, our brokenness and the way it's exhibited should make us grieve and grieve deeply. . . but we shouldn't be surprised.
  • This is why He came. 
  • We can't shield our kids from brokenness. It is a fact of life. In fact, it is the very fact that should drive them to see their need for the One who came to undo what we have done. Our sense of our need for a Savior is in direct proportion to our awareness of just how broken we are.
  • We need to speak to our children about brokenness in age appropriate ways.
  • We should speak about God's redeeming work and His Kingdom priorities in age appropriate ways.
  • Why do we so easily and quickly blame God? 
  • Thanks to my friends Marv Penner, Rich Van Pelt, and Jim Hancock. . . and thanks to the difficulty I've experienced in my own life (which is very limited and minuscule in comparison to what was experienced in Newtown), I've learned that trauma victims need lots of time and lots of listening ears. They need to tell their stories. . . over and over and over again.
It's no coincidence that I've been reading Dallas Willard's The Spirit of the Disciplines over the last couple of weeks. Willard writes, "Our 'Why?' in the face of evil signals a lack of insight - willing or unwilling - into the forces that inhabit the normal human personality and thereby move or condition the usual course of human events. Above all, it shows a failure to understand that the immediate support of the evils universally deplored lies in the simple readiness of 'decent' individuals to harm others or allow harm to come to others when the conditions are 'right.' That readiness comes into play whenever it will help us realize our goals of security, ego gratification, or satisfaction of bodily desires. This systematic readiness that pervades the personality of normal, decent human beings is fallen human nature. To understand this is the first level of understanding the 'why'of the evil people do. This ever-present readiness fills common humanity and lies about us like a highly flammable material ready to explode at the slightest provocation. . . . Once we see what people are prepared to do, the wonder ceases to be that they occasionally do gross evils and becomes that they do not do them more often. We become deeply thankful that something is restraining us, keeping us from fully doing what lies in our hearts."

One last bullet point. . . .
  • There but for the grace of God go I.