One Mom’s Response to the Tragedy in Las Vegas

Untitled designThe sky was alternating between a light and dark blue-gray and the air felt cool with rain, but Griff and I hopped out of the van and threw on the pack anyway. Every fall I make it a point to spend as much time as I can out at Wild River, the state park that’s just a couple of miles down the road from our house.

Today we took the easy trail through the oak savannah, in part because of the pending rain and me breaking in new boots, but also because I needed an autopilot sort of walk. Earlier, on our way to school, I had turned on MPR and heard the news about the Las Vegas mass shooting. The rest of the drive back, my mind felt numb.

There’s no one response to hearing news of violence and chaos, the gunshots ricocheting like harmless firecrackers on the radio. Here in the northern Midwest, I felt the strange combination of being far-removed yet somehow still close to the tragedy, as though some smarmy stranger had entered my home unannounced and left his greasy business card on the kitchen counter.

Tragedy is invasive. It is a reminder that safety is relative, and the world is not as friendly as I want to teach my children it is. It casually drips fear into the normalcy of our daily lives, discoloring our thoughts and leaving us upset, uncomfortable, and confused.

It also makes me never want to be in a mass gathering of people ever again. (If you need me, I’ll just be holed up in my kitchen, thank you very much.)

My son and I walked along the paved trail, and I pointed out the different colored leaves, the trees, the moss, the puddles. He bantered along in one-year-old babble, occasionally uttering something that sounded close to the word I was repeating. It felt good to focus on something near, pushing the senselessness out and away as I worked on expanding my son’s vocabulary.

Right after I heard the news, I Voxed a friend, recording a jumble of messy emotions that basically boiled down to, “this is horrible and I’m upset and I have no idea what to do.” There was nothing to do, of course (which is my normal route – when in doubt, make a meal, bake a pie, buy a gift, clean a kitchen, send a card, just don’t. sit. still.).

But sometimes our restless hands have to be stuck, still – caught in the needs of our daily life and those who depend on us – while we feel our way through the event, our emotions running from shock to anger, to sadness, to fear, to worry.

I’m learning, lately, that it’s important to listen to each of those emotions as they come, allowing them to sit in my cupped and shaking hands. Being true to myself also means being vulnerable, expressing my confusion and darkness and fear, because those are the places I am most likely to connect with others and find solace. Or in the words of Matthew 5 and the beatitudes, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Friends, I have nothing profound to say about today’s shooting. I’m just here in my little blue office, surrounded by legos and drawings and bills and an embarrassing amount of empty coffee mugs, and I’m sad. I hurt for the parents who sent their son or daughter off to their first concert, not knowing their children would come home with a new understanding of hate. I hurt for the couple who went to hear their favorite musician but can’t get the sound of gunshots and screams out of their heads. I hurt for the friends having a girls’ night out who are now scared to open their apartment doors. I hurt for the hotel employees and policemen and EMTs who looked into face after face of pain and shock and terror. I hurt for the loved ones on the other end of the phone line, receiving the darkest, hardest words.

I hurt because I am human, and even though I teach my children that humans should not harm one another, I know it still happens.

I hurt because this is a broken world, a fallen world, and hope can be a hard hand to grasp.

Nevertheless, I have found that hope is somehow always present, reaching through the panic and pain, not as a quick fix or a religious pill, but steady as a Father’s heart beating for His children. It is this heart and hope that I choose to stake my faith in, even on days like this.

So today I hurt, and today I hope.

And tomorrow I’ll get up, spend time praying comfort over those affected by the shooting, and then go about my work teaching my children to love, respect, and protect one another and the world around them.

It seems a small consolation, given the size of the loss. I know that. But it is something, and if we all did the same, choosing hope instead of hopelessness, action instead of anger, the next generation could only be better for it.







Book Review and Giveaway

Breaking news. I found time to read a book. Second, I finished it in three days. Third, it was a memoir about terrorism, Islam, and Jesus.

Did I throw you for a loop? Sorry – no talk of parenting and kid food and toddlerisms today. I’m a little too ramped up.

cover_bookinfoI don’t normally get so involved in what I’m reading, but Son of Hamas has woken up something in my life that feels like it’s been sleeping a little too long into the morning. It reminded me that God’s word is living and active. That it has the power to change the course of history. That one man inviting another to a bible study in the dusty streets of Isreal can, literally, save the lives of thousands.

These are strong words, but author Mosab Hassan Yousef  thoroughly backs them up with account after account of how his life changed from reading a New Testament and ultimately coming to know God the Creator.

The cover proclaims Son of Hamas a “gripping account of terror, betrayal, political intrigue, and unthinkable choices.” It certainly is that, but there’s another side to the story I wasn’t expecting. Son of Hamas exposes not only the beating heart of a much-feared organization – it exposes the truth about the Isreali-Palestinian conflict. The author realizes firsthand that peace will not come through talks and diplomats and warheads and borders.

Peace will only come through Jesus.

I know. I’m a Christian, and even I think that sounds a little trite. But Yousef made sense. If Hamas did not have Isreal to fight, they would find someone, or something else to be angry at. Someone would be wearing the wrong head scarf. There would be a bad price at the market. The root of their problem was self-righteous anger, anger that they believed Islam supported – by all measures and costs.

In a neighborhood bible study, Yousef details the first time he realized that the cure for anger could be found in the teachings of Jesus. Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45).

Yousef references this verse after he returns to prison for the second time, noticing with shock that since reading Jesus’ teachings in Matthew, he no longer harbored anger at his captors. As the book progresses, readers see the author basing more and more of his decisions on what he’s read in the Bible instead of the teachings of Islam, and how God blesses him for it.

green-princeI’m not a political junkie, but as the book progressed past its slower, historical background beginning, even I started to recognize names and events. However, what I recognized even more was the quiet yearning that stood off the page as Yousef realized how much his life was changing simply by reading a New Testament.

As a whole, the book read more like non-fiction than memoir (a fact that I attribute to knowing that English was not the author’s first language) but still kept me turning pages past eleven o’clock, which is a pretty big deal in my world. AND, it’s now a documentary called The Green Prince. Intrigued? You should be. The trailer for this movie was what sparked me to read the book in the first place.

Now it’s your turn! Do you need something new to usher in your fall book-reading season? My giveaway for Son of Hamas starts today and ends Sunday. Follow the link below to enter the drawing! (And keep your fingers crossed that I figure out how to use Rafflecopter.)

Son of Hamas Rafflecopter giveaway

Son of Hamas was provided to me for review by Tyndale House Publishers as part of their blogger network.