"If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles." (in other words, "Do whatever is expected of you...AND THEN SOME") - Jesus in Matthew 5:41

Tragedy Comes to Mayberry

Seth Trickey loved soccer. I watched him play a game once on a beautiful Saturday in April. He lived in a big house with his family just off County Line Road, about three miles from where my Oklahoma farm was located in the 1990s. Seth enjoyed going to church. He also enjoyed birthday parties.

As a matter of fact, he enjoyed one on Saturday night. Then, on Monday morning, he was dropped off at the Fort Gibson Middle School, removed his backpack, took out a gun, began yelling “I’m crazy! I’m crazy!”, and fired fifteen shots at students before his gun jambed. He had 70 other rounds with him. In the aftermath, four students lay in pools of blood: one shot twice in the arm, one shot in the leg, another shot in the arm, and a young lady receiving a bullet through the ear and out the nose. A fifth student was hit by shrapnel. A sixth student discovered at school on Tuesday that his math book had a bullet hole ripped up to page 399. The math book had been in his backpack on his back (Bane was baptized the following Wednesday night at the Chandler Road Church in Muskogee).

When I heard about the school shooting at Fort Gibson, I sat stunned in my chair. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I lived in Fort Gibson two years before moving to Tennessee. My children attended the Fort Gibson school. My wife substitute taught at the Middle School on many occasions, and would likely have been a teacher at the Fort Gibson Middle School had we stayed there. Dozens of members of the Fort Gibson Church where I used to preach were teachers in the school. The Superintendent, Dr. Steve Wilmoth, is a personal friend. I could tell by the shock on his face on network television that he couldn’t believe it happened either. Tragedy had come to Mayberry!

Fort Gibson is a small town of 5,000 people. The Fort Gibson public school system was heralded at the time as the best in the state of Oklahoma. If there’s ever been a place like Mayberry, it’s Fort Gibson. How, therefore, could such an event take place, especially considering that the one who did the shooting fit the mold of an all-American boy? I don’t have the answer. I’m sure there are many influential factors and contributors to such violent outbursts as are happening across our country. Actually, to reconsider, maybe I do have the answer. Maybe we can trace the root of the problem all the way back to the Garden in Eden where mankind made a very bad choice to disobey God. A domino effect has continued to present day. And often, good people become victims. Even the most innocent of people – children.

I’m not writing this to depress you. I’m simply writing this to remind you that you are not exempt from the domino effect of evil. Neither am I or my family. I lived one mile from the scene of the tragic school shootings in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I ministered at the church in Arlington, Texas that served as the home church of a boy who grew up to kill fourteen people in a Baptist church in Fort Worth. My kids went to the Fort Gibson public school in Oklahoma and I often served as a reader for the elementary students or spoke to middle school assemblies. Tragedy is sure getting close to home. What can we do?

We can live each day as if it were our last. (It may be). We can make sure we hug and kiss our kids and spouse every time we part from one another. (It may be the last time we see them alive). We can refuse to ever part from one another in anger. (It would be hard to live with the guilt if something happened before we could make up). We can refuse to allow fear to rule our lives and rob our joy. (Satan would like nothing more). And, most important, we can make sure that we are ready to meet the Lord in judgment.

Some day we will.

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