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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.

From the first day here we realized that not everything is perfect. It didn’t take long before we discovered goat heads and sand burrs. We’ve encountered the goat heads before, in Colorado, and they are nasty. They puncture bike tires and shoes – and they hurt. They poke through gloves, and are nasty to the pads of dog’s feet. The sand burrs, while not quite as violent, are more prolific and annoying. They stick to one’s socks, pants, and fall into shoes with¬†devastating¬†effects.

Sure, in Oregon we have mist, fog, grey skies, and rain – but those are not painful in a tactile way. We also have poison oak and the occasional earthquake, but we don’t have lightning, tornadoes, or nasty stickers. I’m still trying to keep an open mind, but it’s a known fact that Oregon is God’s country and doesn’t have the devastating pests, natural disasters, and annoying biology of other parts of the country.

But these thorns and stickers are merely blessings in disguise. At least that’s what God told Adam and Eve just before He expelled them from the Garden of Eden.

I’m not naive enough to think I’ve figured out the blessings of these thorns – yet. And I’m pretty certain I don’t even have a clue as to any benefit. I did find it interesting that the sand burrs were native to North America and were not a problem until after the Carolina Parakeet became extinct. Now they are found¬†worldwide¬†and they are toxic to animals.

Sometimes some things we think are harmless, like a beautiful pasture, often turn out to be prickly and annoying. Too often, beautiful things can turn out to be dangerous and harmful. Like the deer that wander past the house, they look beautiful and harmless, but in reality they are the cause of serious injury and death to humans.

As a father, I’m always¬†vigilant to danger and constantly¬†on the lookout to protect my family. My biggest fear is humans – not stickers, burrs, or animals. The coyotes that prey in the pastures don’t scare me; I’ve taught my kids to not approach deer; and most of the other animals are rare and pose little risk. But it is the people who appear friendly, but in reality prey on children, they scare me.

It is difficult to know who to trust and who not to trust. Some people just love children. They treat all kids as if they were their own grandchildren – and that is awesome. But some are adept predators, grooming children for their own use and satisfaction. Not all predators resort to abusive touch or other harmful actions, some are content with the flirtation of impropriety. Living a fantasy life through pornography and desire.

But some very kind and apparently well intentioned people are so adroit in their predation that it is difficult to not let one’s guard down. They don’t just groom the kids, but they groom the parents to trust also. It is exactly because I don’t always trust myself in judge people’s motives that I¬†don’t¬†always trust others.

Last night I was talking to a man who had just met my family. He went into great detail about how “darling” my daughter is. Of which I agree. But he told me about what she was wearing, how she behaved, and how sweet she is. I will admit, she is all of that – but I have two issues regarding this. First, I don’t want my¬†Darling Daughter to grow up thinking she is a princess and will have everything handed to her on a silver platter – just because she is beautiful and charming. But, like the wolf in sheep’s clothing, I am leery of the occasional predator that may take advantage of a moment to harm my kids.

Last week I met a man who was clearly grooming my Smiling Son. He brought guitars, guns to show off, and paid special attention to him. He went so far to offer to teach my five-year old how to use guns. I later advised both of my kids to never be alone with him and to not hug him or let him touch them.

At the same time, I don’t want my kids to miss out on opportunities because of my fears and protective approach. As an older father, that is always a danger in raising kids. Being overprotective can be as harmful as other serious parenting mistakes. But when it comes to sexual abuse, abduction, or worse – I will continue to be the wary parent and I will continue to shelter my kids from people (including other kids) whom I deem dangerous or untrustworthy.

What fears do you have? What steps do you take to protect your kids? What irrational fears do you harbor? What rational fears do you watch out for on a regular basis?

(continued from here)Resurrection

So, last night, as I lay in bed listening to the rain, listening to my heart, and listening to my God, I came to realize something. ¬†But more important than realizing it, I came to accept it. ¬†I really don’t want to write about it. ¬†Though I’m an advocate of transparency, this one cuts really close to the bone.

Last night, I realized, and accepted, that I feel worthless.

Society doesn’t value this trait very much. ¬†We all take great pains to avoid looking this way. ¬†In fact, this is as the heart of pride, arrogance, and cockiness. ¬†We go out of our way to look strong, capable, and powerful – in the process, we overcompensate. ¬†Unfortunately, I’ve found, is that many of us struggle with feelings of worthlessness.

“Society doesn’t value this¬†trait¬†very much.”

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