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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When Your Gold Glove Performance Begins To Rust

 

When I was eight years old I played machine pitch baseball for the Southern Electrical youth team. I was a chubby kid with a bowl cut and a penchant for daydreaming about the free post game Capri Sun while playing center field. Sometimes I was relegated to the dreaded right field where MLB aspirations and souls of children die.

But I found myself kicking dirt in the center field the night of “the catch.”

I heard a metal pop and my eyes focused on the white comet approaching my little atmosphere. I started running full tilt, the fastest my Pony’s have ever run, towards the descending ball. It was about to touch down in no man’s land, the dubious region between the left fielder and I. A sure double for the batter.

But not tonight.

With the ball feet away from the ground I dove head first, full extension, glove outstretched Ken Griffey Jr style. My eyes were tightly shut as I heard the smack of leather and felt the grass and dirt rub past my cheek. I was so shocked I caught the ball I almost forgot to hit my cut off man to hold the bases. Blind dumb luck of a catch.

It was early in the season and it was one of those catches that wedged in the memories of my coaches and teammates. Every line drive or flyball within a mile of me was expected to be hunted down effortlessly with the skill of a trained assassin. My coach even gave me a nickname after the game: Bryan “Sure Hand” Daniels.

The moniker didn’t stick for long though. I could never replicate my amazing anomaly of a shoestring catch. Routine fly balls were routinely fumbled and line drives were misjudged enough to turn singles into triples. “What happened?!” my outfield teammate would ask, perplexed at my sudden lack of basic hand eye coordination. I still get a sense of anxiety catching practice pop balls to this day.

My short-lived identity as a circus catch artist took the wind out of my sails. My waning passion for baseball flatlined as my sports value before my coaches and peers plummeted. My performance didn’t live up to their expectations. And deep down I knew their expectations were built on a fluke catch.

I still struggle with this performance mentality.

The fight of our Western age may be the fight against this performance mentality.

Not the fight against hard work mind you.

Performance.

We are hardwired to conflate what we do with who we are.

We earn “As” in school so we are bright. We earn a nice paycheck at work so we are succesful. We workout at the gym so we are fit. It doesn’t get much better than being the most athletic, rich, and smart person in the room.

What others have labeled us becomes our identity and soaks deep down into the soul level. And we’ve earned these labels. With sweat and ingenuity and talent. With our performance.

This ethos has seeped into the church under the pseudo name of “excellence.”

Nothing can be more lethal to our spiritual life than adopting this performance mentality into the gospel of grace. We’ve earned nothing and are given everything through Christ. We bring nothing to the table yet we are given a seat of honor at the Wedding Banquet table to eat of pleasures forever.

Performance is damned before the Son who perfectly performs our salvation for us.

Yet we try to impress people with our performance in religious matters. With our knowledge of Scriptures, church attendance, giving, serving, or even our children’s obedience. Or the fact that our family looks like a Stepford model of the American Dream. At least on Sunday mornings and important social functions we can pull off this tenous facade.

We’re not fooling anyone. Especially not the One that matters.

So my fellow right fielders can take heart:

We don’t have to keep despairing on the stage of human approval. We can quit acting out an identity we never truly believed. We’re broken, insecure, dense, weak, flat-out failures sometimes.

We may even be notorious for watching ground balls dribble between our legs.

But we’re loved no matter what. And we’re forever beneficiaries of the performance another. So sit back and drink that in. The Capri Sun will be worth it at the end of this treacherous game.

Bryan Daniels

How Crossfit, Crossbows, and Cross Training Shoes Combat Zombies

From Nazi Zombies to “World War Z” to “The Walking Dead”, images of the post apocalyptic snarling undead are ingrained in America’s cultural psyche. There is also a Christian cultural fascination with the Left Behind series and biblical prophecies of impending end times doom.

Sometimes biblical and cultural realities merge in our warped imaginations.

Come on. Don’t act like you haven’t daydreamed your way into a doomsday Zombie attack scenario while your pastor was busy trying to break down the 70 weeks of Daniel 9. What you’d do first if all hell broke loose, who you’d protect, what would be your longterm “bug out” plan. So here are five fool-proof tips to survive the coming crisis without having to lock yourself in a prison food closet with no outlet for…um…”processed” food:

noah is needed for the Zombies

1. Find your “Noah.” You’re probably related to him (or her). He’s probably a distant cousin you haven’t seen in 17 years. He’s been living off the grid lately and he fully expects to escape the coming tribulation with pickled food, an embarrassment of generators, and thousands of rounds of military ammo. If you can stomach his propensity for vast conspiracy theories and railings against the Illuminati it may save your life. Most importantly, he is a man or woman of old school MacGyver-esque sensibilities which include breeding goats, building underground bomb shelters, and blowing up stuff with homemade mortars. Be sure you know the fastest route to Noah’s house without having to travel major highways.

newbalance can run from zombies

2. Running shoes. Well, since they are only the “Walking Dead” they can be jogging shoes. The electrical grid will be down and nonrenewable resources will run out in 2-4 weeks. Like Jesus and the disciples, you’ll have to hoove it from town to town (avoid big cities). Buy some good insoles and quality Nike, Adidas, New Balance or those weird Five Finger shoes.

5 fingers can run from zombies

 

Cross training shoes may be your best fit since you’ll likely be running on a variety of sketchy surfaces. Your feet are your greatest commodity. Beware: Even in the zombie apocalypse, Crocs with socks will get you laughed at.

crossbows kill zombies

3. One word: Crossbow. Forget the guns. Ammo will run out and gunfire will attract herds to your location. A crossbow is an apt discreet zombie slayer and arrows can be reused. More importantly, a crossbow can be used to kill food sources like rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, and former house cats (I kid…but seriously) Even if you have tons of freeze-dried food from that failed Nutri system diet plan, it doesn’t matter. Because of looters and herds you will not be staying in one place for long. Get a crossbow. You can wait for heavenly manna, but you know the wise Proverb: God helps those who hunt with crossbows.

crossfit women kill zombies

4. Another similar word that can save you: Crossfit. You know that psychotic workout routine your in-shape friends keep inviting you to do so they can make fun of you? The one where the women dead lift Mack trucks like they’re lifting up a small child. Trust me, you need to get in better shape than you’re in now. You want to be able to run for miles and still have enough in the tank for hand to hand combat with a herd of mouth foaming undead car mechanics. Maniacally flipping monster tires and snatching tree logs over your head may very well be a marketable job skill in the forest tribe you’re forced to join.

The best apocalypse fitness solution may also be to join your local Parkour club. Jumping, flipping, scaling fences and climbing walls can keep you alive. If your family wonders why you’re playing on the park jungle gyms all the time tell them you’re just getting ready for your “Ninja Warrior” debut.

The Bible Kills Zombies

5. The Bible.* According to some lone ranger named “Eli” this holy book will be worth more than water in the desperate desert apocalyptic new world. Oh yeah, and you also need antibacterial wet wipes. The word and wet wipes. Don’t forget.

Bryan Daniels

*Seriously, you will need Living Word and Living Water. Not just for then, but now and always.

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

Like A Cocky Spelling Bee Finalist…

Spelling Bee

I competed in my fifth grade spelling bee. I was one of the biggest fifth graders in the elementary school. Kind of like those sixteen year old Puerto Rican pitchers with beards who illegally compete in the Little League World series…the only difference is that I belonged in the fifth grade.

“Horizon”

“Prosperous”

“Corridor”

None of these words were a match for my dizzying prebubescent intellect.

Twenty or so fellow class finalists stood before our school in the cafeteria/auditorium. After a few rounds the stage whittled down to a handful of contestants. I made it all the way to the final four. The top three went to the County wide spelling bee where a big gold plastic award and an eternity of local fame awaited you.

The final word given by the judges to me was:

“Geranium”

I was flippant in my respect for the stage and this word. I could spell this word backwards while playing “Sonic The Hedgehog.” I spoke into the mic confidently, yet a little too quickly than I should have.

“G-E-R-A-N-I-U-M, Geranium.”

I waltzed back to my seat, like Michael Jordan after hitting a buzzer beating game winning shot.

“Incorrect” said the judge in a bland tone.

I was dismayed as I took my seat with my fellow classmates. I knew I spelled it right. My teacher sat down beside me and asked me to re-spell it for her. She knew I spelled it right.

She made an appeal to the judges. They reviewed the tape and the decision stood. In my hurried haste I had pronounced the “M” to sound more like an “N” to them.

My brief stint of Spelling Bee legend wilted like a geranium in the Sahara.

Sometimes it is easy to be correct in truth and fact, yet wrong in presentation of it.

The burden of clarity is mostly on the communicator.

Orthodox meanderings divorced from a broken humbled heart can muddle rather than clarify the gospel we share.

Let’s not be a cocky fifth grader in our presentation of Christ to the world. There is no other message in all eternity that should be handled with more care. So much more is at stake with our speech than a long forgotten fourth place finish.

Bryan Daniels

My Pithy Answers To Anonymous Googlers

Is Tim Tebow a bad Christian

One of the mysteries of blogging involves the enigmatic role of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in sending internet searchers your blog’s way. Many come with disturbing dark searches I’ll leave unmentioned, some come with weird puzzling searches that leave me wondering for more (IE “Rastafarian Polygamous Women”).

Many are in the form of questions, questions I’m not sure they received clear answers for in my disjointed ramblings. So here’s my attempt to pithily answer a few random search engine questions that have popped up on my stat radar the past month. I’ll keep it short and non nuanced. If you need clarification ask and a longer post shall be heretofore granted to you.

What does the gospel of grace say about leaving a church that preaches the law?

If it strictly ONLY preaching law (like women being unclean in their time of month, or shrimp being off-limits to Christians) then lovingly share the gospel with the leadership while you share your reasons for leaving (first of all, any kind of shrimp makes me rejoice).

If it preaches what seems like a mixture (which is what I think you’re saying) then sit down with the leadership of the church over coffee and learn about their story and testimony. See where they’re coming from. Most preachers see the ten Mosaic Commands as a rule of life for believing Christians, and as a result sound more behavior modification than grace in their public speech. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re placing the cart of works before the horse of faith. It may mean they haven’t found how revolutionary, freeing, heart changing, and permanent the undiluted gospel of grace is for all of life. Help them with that by modeling it.

Why be an educator?

It’s challenging, rewarding, discouraging and incredibly interesting. Teachers (and coaches) will absolutely have a greater impact on youth than physically or emotionally absent parents. You want to be a light in the midst of the demonic darkness? Come to public education. Future lost generations need mentors to sow love and time into them.

What has been done for justice to the holocaust victims?

I don’t know if anything can be done on this side of eternity concerning real justice for over 20 million lives brutally cut short. Tribunals? Reparations? Band Aids on gaping flesh wounds. My best offer of justice is that of a coming perfect Judge and King, who can make indescribable beauty out of the most ugly heap of ashes (Isaiah 61:3). King Jesus will judge rightly those criminally guilty, and comfort perfectly those lives shattered by tragedy.

I was a bad witness as a christian can i fix it?

Absolutely not. But God can. That’s where grace comes in and murders the shame of being a “bad witness.” You will continue to fall short in your life and that will continue to highlight your continual need of Christ and his daily grace. The best you can do is point to his perfect life and death and life again on your behalf. His gospel doesn’t make you better, it gives you life. This living mercy is new every morning, which is the greatest news for mess-ups like me (Leviticus 3:23)

Is Tim Tebow a Bad Christian?

No. He seems like a bold, genuine, pleasant Christian young man. He seems like the type of positive role model kids need in this day with replete cautionary tales like Snooki or Lindsey Lohan dominating culture. Tebow relies on the same grace we all must be given day to day. Reference “Tim Tebow and How to Be a Bad Christian Witness” for more thoughts.

Should 55 yr old men wear skinny jeans?

No. Never. Absolutely Not. No comprende. What is wrong with you people?!

Hope that helps some of you Internet searchers and lurkers.

Peace and grace,

Bryan Daniels

First Bible: Like A Kid On Christmas Morning

When I first saw this short video I can neither confirm nor deny that I may or may not have cried like a slapped baby during it…purportedly.

Under strict government constraints, the word is a precious treasure to Chinese Christians. They’re like gleeful kids on Christmas morning. Some are well into their forties and fifties until they’ve personally cradled their own Bible. Many more will never own their own Bible.

Even the smell of a Bible is a beautiful fragrance to them.

I have numerous misplaced Bibles loitering in my back seat, under couches, and stuck to book shelves like an ignored relic. I won’t skip a physical meal but I will neglect the nourishment of my soul with passive procrastination for days.

These Chinese souls have really grasped Psalm 119 in experiential ways that make me jealous (Psalm 119:11, 14, 24, 47).

God bless them.

God help me.

Go to this ministry and donate five bucks to help more Chinese believers experience this unfettered joy: Bibles for China.

Bryan Daniels