Losing a Child, Parental Guilt, and Cooling off Our Hot Takes

Three years ago on a Sunday afternoon four adults scrambled frantically around my In Laws property and surrounding neighborhood scouring for the signs of a two-year old little boy who had been missing for less than five minutes. That little boy was my son, Gideon, and those less than five minutes felt like an eternity of getting punched in the soul by Mike Tyson.

Fortunately, I found him a couple of houses down, on our front porch playing with the water faucet wondering what all the fuss was about.

Three years before that incident with Gideon a similar situation happened with my oldest, Josiah. Another case of a Daniels two-year old who had taken off quietly and unwittedly, a sly escape from his briefly distracted adult caretakers. Out the door he went, and halfway down a busy street he walked pulling his little green Playskool wagon behind.

Fortunately, observant neighbors stopped their cars and redirected Josiah back to his fraught mama who by then had sprinted out roadside screaming out his name and expecting the worst.

Our children weren’t neglected at any moment during these incidents, but their caretakers were briefly distracted. Not for days or hours or even minutes, we’re talking distracted for seconds.

Moments like this are few and far between for us, but they happen to even the most careful helicopter hovering parents. The most doting parent has likely experienced this blood curdling parenthood rite of passage: The terrible moment we lose track of a young child’s whereabouts. Fortunately, for most of us, almost all of these experiences were only temporary scares that ended with us finding, running to, and embracing our little lost one like they were a lifetime missing prodigal child.

But, not all of these parental moments end in a crashing emotional conundrum of joy and tears of relief. As with the news of the gator snatching and drowning of a two-year old at Disney World Resort last Tuesday, some parents will get no respite from the eternal weight of a million gut level soul punches. A child lost under a parents direct care produces a guilt I’m sure that is unimaginable and inescapable.

For those of us who are shocked social media spectators to these tragic moments it may be helpful to take a few deep breaths and feel the hurt (before we feel the anger).

In our culture of fast food and quick easy Googled answers we need to slow down. We need to take a moment to collectively breathe. We want to assign blame for such tragedies too quick.  And inevitably the parents (who are victims in a tragedy too) end up in the crosshairs of society’s self-righteous indignation.

Whether it’s an alligator attack where the child dies.

Or a zoo accident where the child lives (but gorilla doesn’t).

Or what tragically happened last year to a local elementary school teacher and mother. Her sleeping baby girl forgotten in the midst of a morning rush, changed routine, and left in a hot car all day.

I. Can’t. Imagine. The. Heart. Break.

Yet it is not an exaggeration to say: It could happen to anyone.

Why my sons survived my moments of parental amnesia I don’t know. Some may say lucky or #blessed or providence. I bet those answers ring hollow to the parents currently being punched in the soul by grief. Where that bone chilling moment of immense loss replays in their mind like an unavoidable infinite video loop from hell.

And my knee jerk hot take on the matter may only serve to make that hell hotter for a grieving parent. A crass burn on top of a fresh gaping wound. A message that is thoroughly anti Christ in its effect (Isaiah 61:1). Maybe when Christ says the “first shall be last” he’s also talking about our propensity to form and offer an opinion in haste. To be the first to break the news and give groundbreaking commentary. Maybe, in certain situations, we can better proclaim the gospel by shutting our mouths.

I know I’m guilty.

But sorrow and empathy and prayers I’m sure are the order for such heartbreak; not judgment or guilt or shame.

Because as parents this much is true: we’re all five seconds of distractedness away from being the lead story on the evening news.

Yes, let’s pray that nightmare doesn’t happen to us and ours. But even more: let’s pray for the poor souls living that nightmare, with heartbreak and understanding.

“Mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15)

Bryan Daniels

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Spring Break And The Broken Me: Panama City Beach Edition

The lurid tales reaching across the bridge from the Rapneck Riviera (aka Panama City Beach) via cable news and social media are disturbing. I stand with Frank McKeithen’s recent crusade to protect and secure our shores and citizens during Spring Break season. But I wonder if our outrage is misplaced if it’s leveled only towards the drunken frat boys and sorority girls and “100 mile” gang of deviants.

We may hang our head with every voyeuristic Fox News Spring Break expose that works to throw soil in our white sand. But our little beach community isn’t the only ones that should be slumped in shame. Sure, there’s much to lament about Spring Break; not because it’s happening in Panama City Beach, but because Spring Break in Panama City Beach is the manifestation of long broken hearts, homes, and heads in this generation.

Twenty year old kids didn’t learn hedonistic anarchy during their short stay in Panama City Beach. They brought hedonistic anarchy with them. It was a twisted culture ingrained in them. From their music, movies, and magazines of choice. These were long-held values and learned traits. From their colleges, towns, and dareIsay: families.

Spring Break in Panama City Beach may be the delta where this generation’s worldview is spewing it’s fruit, but it’s not the spring. For 30+ years American culture has treated the stage of adolescence to adulthood as a moratorium on morals and common sense. A time to “sow wild oats” and “live it up” until they enter the real world of responsibility. You know obligations to families and bills and such? It’s no wonder the trend now is grown twenty and thirty somethings seeking to extend that adolescent stage into adulthood. Peter Pans with beards loiter in their childhood bedrooms on the continued dime of mom and dad. Seventeen year olds in the greatest generation beat a hell-bent Nazi Regime in World War 2; with their blood. Twenty seven year olds in this generation beat Nazi Zombies in the Call of Duty; with their thumbs.

Bay county can make laws and enforce restrictions that progressively choke the life out of this type of Spring Break in the coming years. I hope it does. That will be good for Panama City Beach. But the delta will spew elsewhere. It must. Because rocks and laws and land can’t stop the powerful rivers of the human heart.

We may say, “That’s not my kids out there.” But they are. They’re America’s kids.

They’re the fruit of the culture of excess and “adolescence” we’ve passively ingested.

Our teenage sons have the common sense to hide their drunken exploits on this side of the bridge. But when we do catch wind of our perfect sons hypocrisy some of us shrugged and winked, “Well, boys will be boys.” Little did we know the can we kicked down the road then would be the grenade that exploded across the news today.

“Our” kids may never indiscriminately shoot a gun into a crowded party. Thank God. But many of “our” kids do passively absorb the cultural trappings that make such a situation ripe. There’s a quiet complicity that pervades the minds of even the best middle class church kids we know. They may never be gang bangers but I promise many will buy the next gang banging album released and know all the lyrics before you can say “Sean Hannity.”

I know this because they’ll be singing it in the hallways, classrooms, and locker rooms of my school.

I’m not just an old codger simply lamenting the olden days of Leave it To Beaver ethics. I’m a decade removed from being a college student. Thirteen years ago I was one of those golden boy youth group leaders buzzing off Jesus on Sunday mornings while still buzzing off the Natty Lites from the night before. Hypocrisy has a home in this heart. I see a kindred spirit in the Spring Breaking revelers. Even now my planks are just masked with an acceptable cultural Christian facade.

The problem isn’t out there in the mythical dark corners of the world we dare not tread. The problem is the actual dark recesses in our own chest cavities we dare not tread. The evil that touches us most intimately every day doesn’t come from without but within (Jeremiah 17:9).

It takes some courage to face the lawlessness of the Spring Break; but it takes supreme courage to face the lawlessness of our own hearts. But a revelation of our own lawlessness begets our own brokenness. And brokenness has a bent towards the only grace that can heal it.

Grace found in Christ is where the wildest hardest hearts are reigned in and melted. It’s where the hope of mourning beach communities like ours resides. Because the deepest issue is not legal, cultural, economical, or social.

It’s moral.

The gospel solution changes moral behavior by forgiving our immoral behavior. Again and again.

Every morning (Lamentations 3:17).

The spring that never runs dry.

And that’s good news for scalawags like Spring Breakers and me.

Bryan Daniels

Driscoll and Ditches and Dirt and Us

As an old-young man: There’s some things I don’t wrestle with anymore.

Yet there’s other things that have my psyche crippled like a Rhonda Rousey armbar.

Ten, OK maybe two, years ago I would gladly jump into a variety of online political or apologetic debates. Acting like my two cents was a million bucks I’d weld philosophic catchphrases like a Thor Hammer:

“Out of context!”

“Straw Man!”

“Ad Hominem, sir!”

Driscoll is wrong and so is everyone

I don’t inject myself into those blog comments and Facebook threads anymore. Maybe it’s life taking me by the shoulders and shaking some sense into my big ornery head. Maybe I’m blinded by the apparent planks protruding from my own eyes. Maybe that sounds humble-bragish, it probably is.

But my mission has become more simple lately. To love my beautiful pregnant wife as the Bridegroom has loved the church. To rear my sons and model manhood to them in a way that makes them see their daily need for Jesus. To put to death the nasty flesh that still lurks around the corners of my own heart. To sow into fellow strugglers and friends the gospel seeds of grace. To teach and coach in such a way that my students and athletes will see that life is bigger than school and sports.

If I strive to do these well: How will I have time to be the interweb keeper of theological/political/philosophical/ecclesiastical/whatever fidelity?

I’ve admittedly spent too much time on Twitter and Facebook (just reactivated) this last week of my summer. One common article theme was regurgitated within my social media circle: The scandal(s) of Mark Driscoll and his Mars Hill Church outing of Act 29 Network.

Five years ago I would have cared a lot more about this cultural Christian news. That’s not to say I don’t care, because there’s still a latent scandal-seeking rubber necker inside me scratching to get out. But there’s too many battled and bruised souls (including mine) in the world to give two rips about the latest fabricated scandal. You could replace “Driscoll” with “Gungor” here and nothing would change about my sentiments.

This isn’t a just Christian problem. It’s a human problem. If it wasn’t Mark Driscoll or Gungor for us it’d be the Kardashians or Jay Z or insert some other political or celebriscandal.

What we humans end up having is a strange echo chamber of faux outrage towards fresh juicy news about public figures. And we almost never really know the people we rage against. Their public persona is largely made by the marketing whims of others. So we breathe our own fiery rhetoric into the heated reactions to reactions all clamoring for anonymous interactions with people we don’t care to meet or know.

If I may corner my own “tribe”: The online Christian community spends so much time and energy being angry at people they don’t know or never will meet I wonder how they have any time and energy to love the people they do know and meet everyday.

I believe the scandals we long to gaze into say more about us than the people involved. Maybe we want to see a chink in the armor of the best among us. Maybe if we peer close enough we’ll see through the shiny marketing and find a soul that’s hemorrhaging a bit like ours. A fellow sinner stumbling in the dark yet desperately reaching for the light.

We need to know the imperfections of our perfect. That we’re not alone in frequently falling into the ditches our own shovels have dug.

I’m with you.

And I believe grace lifts us out of those ditches again and again.

And it enables us to help lift others. The nearest ditch faller is the one we run towards. The souls closest to us need the hand of grace we’ve found in Christ. Not our self-righteous posturing, just our honest forgiven self.

I may pull you out today. Tomorrow I’ll need you to pull me out. It can’t be from afar or from the safe confines of a raging online persona. Let’s make this commitment to one another:

We’re gonna have to get dirty at some point.

Bryan Daniels

I’m Quitting Facebook: And the Fantasy of Social Media

I recently deactivated my personal Facebook and I’m in the process of deleting my Twitter.

I’m tired of being a slave.

Not that this route of abstinence is necessary for everyone. I’m sure many can use such social media tools in moderation. But for now, I’m not one of them.

I’ve seen the dire effects of social media on this SmartPhone generation I teach everyday. If my ninth graders are not texting, they’re tweeting. If they’re not tweeting, they’re sharing pics on Instagram. If they’re not Instagramming, they’re liking on Facebook. If they’re not liking on Facebook, they’re Snapchatting. If they’re not snapchatting, they’re sharing their Flappy Bird score. If they’re not sharing their flappy bird score, they’re texting…

And so their virtual world turns, revolving around 3 X 2 inch screen that makes everything, especially relationships, smaller. With a hunched posture and lowered gaze, they bow before their handheld idols all day long.

My drug of choice the past year(s) has been Facebook and Twitter. The little red number that pops over the little blue world has been a confirmation of my social value. The retweet or the favorite has been a welcome endorsement of my public thoughts. None of the satisfaction lasts, and none of it has depth.

I want to try to plant my time and resources into the people that matter most.

Hopefully, twenty years from now my sons will remember a dad who joyfully Hulk Smashed them onto the living room couches during their early childhood. They won’t remember the brief time dad’s witty post on Skinny Jeans went viral.

Hopefully, forty years from now my wife will remember her husband looking into her eyes before bed every night and saying with focused intensity “I love you.” She won’t remember all the funny YouTube cat videos I showed her or the times we spent all night gazing into our Iphones.

And I could try to be balanced and nuanced and put boundaries and clear guidelines up as far as my social media use. 1. Only fifteen minutes a day 2. No use right when I get home from work ….. etc. I have in the past. But it’s easier for this dog to return to his vomit than learn new tricks.

The chimera of social media has stunted our relational growth. We’ve swung into the carnival door on the whim of our thumbs and now we measure every real world experience and relationship with the fleeting fantasy of faux social contact. I’ve heard normal ninth grade girls mention they have thousands of Instagram followers. They only personally know a fraction of their followers. They largely have no clue who is viewing or using their pictures for fancy sake.

That is scary.

But that big contrived social media platform affirms their worth.

“It’s not real,”

I told a high school FCA group yesterday about our obsession with social media “relationships.” And those words probably resonated with me more than them. There was a time (like 15 years ago) people met physically for face to face encounters and fellowship. Over tea or barbecue or wiffle ball.

But there’s also a cost involved in that: It’s harder to hide a zit or bad hair day in the flesh.

It’s harder to be inauthentic in the flesh. As a result, it’s easier to be known in the flesh.

And so the unfortunate catch is this: We’ve so controlled our public persona that no one really knows us. Sure, they know the facade we’ve carefully constructed to be seen by others. But they don’t know the hurts, dreams, fears and failures at our soul level. We don’t bare those groanings to an inanimate screen. We only bare those groanings to fellow souls we trust.

And who we trust has gotten narrower and narrower because our social life has been imprisoned within the dull glare of a smart box. And one of our deepest human longings, to be truly known and accepted, has been blurred and manipulated through the lens of a device we control…or controls us. And I know it’s not a handheld issue, but a heart issue at stake here. This is true with anything in life that lords over us.

So I will attempt to break out of the box for a while.

To be a better husband, father, and friend.

To be known, and to know.

Bryan Daniels

*I will still post on this blog irregularly as time permits.

Skinny Jeans, Roaring Lambs, and Prophetic Names

The interwebs are a strange unpredictable beast. You may cut your blogging heart open and bleed it all over the keyboard and get a drizzle of a hits. Or you may submit a silly tongue and cheek cultural meandering about the unfortunate prevalence of men in skinny jeans that causes an SEO stirring.

In blogging, you just never know.

I have taken an extended hiatus from consistent blogging since the beginning of the summer. Other than a post per month or so, I’ve been too busy or too bleh to sit down and organize coherent thoughts. But a blog a few years old with a decent amount of content brings anonymous search engine perusers to my neck o’ the woods on a daily basis.

So here’s, by and far, what people have searched for and found on “Chief of the Least” during my summer (and now fall) Sabbatical. In order:

Why I am Thankful for Men Who Wear Skinny Jeans

“When I saw the disgusting fad grip the nether regions of young men 4-5 years ago I assumed it would fizzle away like Val Kilmer’s career (I guess you could never top Doc Holiday anyways). But it hasn’t gone away.

The grip is just as tight today…..”

I Wish You Could Have Sat In That Room That Night

“In addition to being an educator at a public high school, I’m also an assistant football coach. Last weekend, we took 50 players to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes full contact football camp. The camp included spirited scrimmages, upbeat services, and plenty of team building time. On the last night the speaker gave a gospel invitation to come to Christ. Twenty four student athletes from our team alone stood up and came forward as they professed their need for Christ…..”

The Revelation of The Lion Lamb Man

We left the dejected apostle, stricken with grief, with no hope in our last blog post (Revelation 5:1-4).  But an angelic elder comes to comfort John in the very next verse.

The first figure John is introduced to is a Lion(verse 5). A lion is a beast of prey; the noble creatures are strong, majestic, and dangerous. You don’t fight with a lion, you submit to a lion. Lions aren’t hunted as prey, they are hunters.

Christ, like a lion, devours His enemies. The book of Revelation displays Christ as a sword wielding horse riding warrior with a tat on his thigh….”

Naming Your Child: Prophetic?

“Names were rich in meaning in the ancient days. You didn’t just name your children wily nily whatever-sounds-good-at-the time names.

A hodge podge assimilation of syllables or fleeting cultural icons would never do for a child’s name way back when (ie I’ve ran across more than one ”Nike” or ”Mercedes”). A regrettable upward trend in 2010 girl baby names shows that “Kendra” and “Kourtney” with a “K” are becoming more popular among young parents. Why? Because of the notorious reality shows of Kourtney Kardashian and Kendra Wilkinson (former playmate).

In the olden days of biblical history, a child’s name held a certain foreshadowing weight to it….”

So there are the top 4 search items of “Chief of The Least” as it has remained relatively passive in the last few months. I assure you, “Chief” Daniels is busy, with family and school and football and other important life items. I appreciate your continued interest and readership to this little blog project despite its dry seasons.

His peace and grace to you and yours,

Bryan Daniels

God Have Mercy on Pakistan…And Me

85 innocent lives were taken in a horrific calculated firestorm of broken stone and flesh. 130 year old white walls brought to rubble along with the lives of dozens of Christian Pakistani men, women and children. The words written above the sanctuary door where the smoke settles and the anguish now rises:

“I will make them joyful in my house of prayer.”

I pray He will soon for the sake of His maligned bride.

Certainly He will when the great white terror of terrorists rises like a polar bear to protect her cubs. He’ll establish a rule where Pakistani 5-year-olds don’t have to worry about being ripped apart by flaming shards of hardware while they sit in Sunday School and learn about Noah.

He will.

But now is not the time for fantasies that would pay back this incoherent tragedy with our own brand of incoherent fallen vengeance.

Broken compassion is the apt response. A deep spirit groaning cry that maybe can only utter a simple 3 word refrain between sobs: “God have mercy!”

and I can’t help but feel this too:

In the comfortable safety of Western church walls,

where I’m prone to complain about service length,

musical styles,

sermon substance,

uncomfortable seating,

a fledgling A/C unit,

a noisy child,

a grumpy old man,

and a general lament of the playing of house politics.

God have mercy. on. me.

I’ve taken for granted the freedom I have in getting to complain about such trite incidentals. There are parents in Pakistan who only have the burnt remains of tiny sandals to remember their children by.

God have mercy on me.

I’ve forgotten the genuine cost of a cross. And I’ve forgotten the joy of it. The other worldly joy that can still rise triumphant over a church brought to its bloody knees, yet clinging to the unvarnished promise:

“I will make them joyful in my house of prayer.”

And He will.

Bryan Daniels

 

 

 

The Gosnell Abortion Trial And The Blood That Speaks For Us All

Abortion Doctor Kermit Gosnell

Yesterday Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the maligned Philadelphia abortion doctor, was found guilty of murdering three babies who survived botched abortions in his clinic. The testimony of co-workers and patients about the clinic’s grimy condition was chilling and brutal: Blood everywhere, severed infant body parts in jars, even cats roaming the premises.

We seem to have some wicked inconsistencies when it comes our threshold for such news. Thousands of Infants were killed in the womb within American “health clinics” yesterdayNo word was uttered for them, partly because the clinic they perished in was “safe” and “sanitary.”

Safe for whom?

In America alone, over 100 infant lives were terminated this past hour with no court proceedings or justice for their spilled blood. Their doctor wasn’t a cold heartless monster in the ilk of a Gosnell. He was probably nice and professional. He stabbed the infants in the neck or suctioned their brain with a gentle smile.

That the child’s life begins at some arbitrary 24 week standard, or in the inches of proximity to the womb, is a sad attempt of justification. The death is just as painful for that child no matter where or when it happens.

I’m not merely trying to be provocative.

I just want to bring to light what I believe to be a torrential infanticide of tiny souls. Modern day abortion was born in the twisted barbaric pseudo science of negative eugenics and spread with the racially charged propaganda of Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger. Logically and scientifically speaking, hardly anyone can deny abortion is the taking of a unique human life anymore. But “education and care for the mother should be the focus, not Roe V. Wade,” they may say.

Education and care for the mother is not contradictory to caring for the unborn. The only teen pregnancy resource centers I know of in my area are also staunchly pro-life Baptist and Catholic ministries.

We can speak grace to the mother while speaking life for the child. There should be basic constitutional rights that protect all of life, especially the voiceless innocent kind.

Telling a black slave in the antebellum South that the law that made them “subhuman” was inconsequential to the slavery debate would be a bit disingenuous. Imagine if abolitionists only posited the “education” of slave masters as the best tactic to end slavery. How much longer would America have tolerated this abusive form of chattel slavery?

Was the “Emancipation Proclamation” necessary or not?

Our laws must reflect our value for all life.

The preborn child is a precious life with unique DNA

a unique heartbeat

a unique calling. (Psalm 139:13-14)

If it takes the Gosnell trial to capture the public’s attention about this ongoing tragedy, so be it. If it takes a shop of horrors so brutal and horrifying and real, worse than any “Saw” or “Texas Chainsaw” screening, then God use it for Your glory.

The light shining onto the utter ugly works of darkness will not reveal a bed of roses. Initially, it will be painful to watch.

So I’ll continue to strive to plead the blood of Christ over the blood of millions lost. That His perfect blood would continually “speak a better word” on our behalf than the blood spilled in murder (Hebrews 12:24).

For this nation.

For the infants.

For the broken mothers.

And for the souls of doctors like Hermit Gosnell.

God’s mercy is the only hope we all can cling to.

Bryan Daniels