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Farm Pond in NebraskaWhile casually chatting with some new friends, one looks up and glances toward the lake where our kids are exploring. He asks about a noise he heard. The other Dad listens. “That’s not a good yell!” He says – and takes off running.

I didn’t hear the commotion, but knowing my kids are about 600 yards away by the farm pond, I too took off running.

Since lunch wouldn’t be ready right away, the kids decided to go explore the farm. I didn’t think too much of it, but later when I heard they were out by the lake, a small voice urged me to go check on them. And yet, I ignored it.

Well, I didn’t actually ignore it, but I did argue with that little voice. As an older father with a long history in EMS, I tend to be a bit cautious. I want my kids to inherit my adventuresome spirit, but I’d like them to survive.

I never feared death until my kids were born. Now, I feel vulnerable to death. It would kill me to lose them, and I’d hate to abandon them through my own death. For someone who embraces adventure and dangerous activities, it’s a weird place to be.

So here I am, running through waist deep grass and weeds about 30 feet behind my friend. We still don’t know what’s going on, but we can hear panicked screams of terror from at least one child. But we can’t see them. I’m praying the whole way and preplanning resuscitation scenarios in my head. I’m also steeling myself, emotionally, to do CPR on one of my kids.

Suddenly the weeds get thick and we can’t run. The vines are wrapping around our ankles and the nettles are stinging our legs. The urgency is still there, but I feel like a turtle running through peanut butter. We’re really in deep weeds now.

I catch a sight of my Smiling Son’s white cowboy hat, and I can see he’s walking around – but he’s near the lake. I call our my Darling Daughter’s name – once, twice, and she finally answers. The screaming calms and the kids appear out of the deep weeds. Just then, I get dive bombed by bees.

As I continue to struggle through the vines and grass, I’m waving my arms trying to fend off the bees. The kids tell us that they were attacked by bees. Ah, now they tell me! ūüėČ

I get through the weeds and away from the offended nest. I have a million grass seeds in my socks and shoes, and few stings from the nettles, but I escaped the angry bees. The kids are fine, except for a few stings, but they are all scared and relieved to see us. I, on the other hand am out of breath and filled with the adrenaline rush of fear, panic, and genuine parental concern.

I take turns holding my kids and soothing their fear.

That’s one of the hard things about being a parent. It doesn’t matter what emotions are in your own heart, your kids’ needs come first. They feared bees, I feared something more tragic and scary. They feared the physical pain of stingers, I feared losing one or both of them. Clearly, my fears trump theirs – but that is irrelevant. I held them. Their fears are real, and deep, and tragic.

At their ages, they could never understand the depth of my love for them. My Smiling Son and I have a little bedtime ritual. He tries to one-up me on how much he loves me more than I love him. I love his confidence and enthusiasm as he tries to show me how much he loves me. It’s a form of worship really. But, without crushing his spirit, I can never let him win this game.

First, he doesn’t understand, really, the depth of love we are really talking about. Second, he can never love me more. And finally, the stakes are high – our kids have to know the depth of our love for them. They have to know that our love is a nearly bottomless pit.

As we walked back to the farm-house, the kids shared their stories of the “hundreds and millions of bees” that attacked them. We two Dads, just held them, listened, and thanked God for the opportunity to still hold our kids.

coyotesI borrowed the title of this post from Bob Seger’s song,¬†Night Moves – an iconic song from the 70s. For me, this opening line is striking and passionate. Nocturnal humans often find affirmation when an artist captures the emotion of a lonely night’s introspection. Whether sitting on a moonlit mountain, or walking through a quiet cityscape, the sights and sounds of the night are powerful.

Last night – this morning really – I woke to the sound of coyotes playing outside my door. It’s difficult to estimate the distance of playful coyote chatter. There is something about their vocals that make them seem close, when often they are far. When I poked my head out the door, like naughty children, they immediately when silent. We Dads have that kind of presence. But within seconds, they began their playful yapping – but now almost 200 yards away.

As I listened to them scatter across the pasture, I imagined playful, mischievous  and sarcastic little boys Рa dangerous band of four-year old boys leaping, rolling, and playing in the tall grass.

The first time I heard coyotes like this, I was 12 years old and sleeping on the back porch of my great aunt’s mobile home in San Bernardino. Terrified and paralyzed, I lay in my sleeping bag fearing for my life. I knew they would eat me alive and I was unable to do anything about it. Later I learned they killed a neighbor’s dog and this merely solidified my understanding of these bloodthirsty creatures of the night.

Six years later, older, wiser, and bigger, I once again encountered coyotes in the wild. While hiking alone in Oregon’s Blue Mountains one snowing Saturday afternoon, I looked across a meadow to see a dozen or more coyotes playing in the snow. They seemed unaware of my presence as I steeled my nerve. I repeated to myself the popular mantras: “They are more afraid of me than I am of them;” They don’t attack humans;” and my¬†favorite, “They’ll leave you alone if you don’t corner or surprise them.

More than once I turned to leave, then convinced myself I had nothing to fear – but soon I turned around and¬†retreated¬†to the safety of my Dad’s car. The victory is that I did not succumb to paralyzing fear – the loss is that I retreated. But the even bigger story is ¬†I lived to tell the tale.

Now, after many more encounters with “harmless” coyotes – and the memory of meeting wolves, face to face, in the Alaska wilderness, I’ve outgrown my fear of the pesky coyote. I won’t take them for granted – but I no longer fear them. In fact, this morning after getting up, I am struck by my need to play like a pack of wild coyotes.

They laughed and played under the full moon, just a few short hours till dawn. What a great place to be – on the open range, no agenda, just hanging out and terrorizing the neighborhood, like a roving band of naughty four year-old boys!

Freedom, laughter, playfulness – what a great set of qualities to possess and pass on to one’s family.

What wakes you up? Emotionally? Spiritually? Mentally?

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