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For the love of country music, for the wounded, the grieving, and the taken…

I awoke from an unsettling dream in the middle of the night and rolled over in my bed, shoving my feet underneath Mabel for warmth and, admittedly, security. My mind replayed scenes from the dream in an effort to dissect the more disturbing parts of it.  And then I heard voices from outside myself, suddenly aware that we had fallen asleep with the television on.

A reporter’s words vied for my attention: “shooting,” “concert,” “dead,” “wounded.” When I blinked my eyes and focused on the context, I heard a gentleman explaining what it was like to have his buddy shot in the chest right in front of him at a country music concert.

Dear God.

In the wee hours of the morning we had confirmed 20 souls taken and 100 injured. I watched throughout the day as the numbers climbed to unfathomable levels. This afternoon, I paused in the kitchen of my office building to absorb the information that we now knew of 58 people who had died, with a staggering 515 injured.

I hurt for the people injured and for the families of those whose loved ones won’t come home from that concert. I hurt for the country music family. People had gathered to have a good time, and their memory of that event, perhaps even their love for the music itself, will be forever scarred.  That breaks my heart in ways I cannot even begin to express.

Last call, last chance
Last song, last dance
Sometimes you just don’t know when that’s gonna be
Hold me baby, give me a kiss
Like tonight is all there is
‘Cause there’s a last time for everything

I do not know what makes a person want to hurt, much less kill, someone they have never met.  Seriously, if you want to hurt someone who has never wronged you in any way, then a large part of you is quirked up far beyond my meager understanding.  But I will say this: hiding behind a gun for fame or acknowledgement is the pinnacle of cowardice. Those who shamelessly kill innocent people are the biggest cowards, perhaps even the very weakest among us, whether due to a blackness in their souls or a sickness in their minds. I cannot say what medical, security or domestic policies – if any – can address this deficiency in our society.  Smarter people than I will have to figure that one out, and I pray they can.  What I do know is the people suffering the most from last night’s tragedy were just trying to chill, to sing and dance and to have a good time.  But we are Americans, and only if we have the courage to band together beyond all of our differences will we rise.

I’m a riser
I’m a get up off the ground, don’t run and hider
When pushin’ comes to shovin’, I’m a fighter
When darkness comes to town, I’m a lighter

I am so over the recent discussions that have divided our nation because quite frankly I think these subjects have been protested to death and gnawing on them has yet to bring us to better action. Do you want your neighbor to succeed, to truly be “equal?” Then lift him up. Want inequality to be a thing of the past? Then teach your children that all are equal, regardless of race, income or religion. Want both our leaders and our children to be respectful of all people? Then we ourselves must model that respect in our homes, in our workplaces, in our congregations, and even on the road in our minivans and SUVs. Reach out your hand and shake the one of the person next to you, no matter where you are.  It is so much harder to hate someone when you look in their eyes and admit they are just like you.

Raise ’em up
Fist black and blue, fight for the truth
It’s what you do
Hand on your heart for the stripes and stars…
Raise ‘em up tall and strong
Raise ‘em up right from wrong
Raise ’em up so damn high they can hear God singing along

As a Christian I know that this life is not meant to be the easy one.  Lately, I am reminded of that daily because the good Lord gave me a thick head and only He has the patience necessary to put the same message in front of me day after day after day. Sadly, I will have the privilege of singing along to a Jason Aldean song on the radio a year from now without being jolted back to the horrific events of last night.  Not everyone can say that, and my prayers are infinitely with them.

May we all do a little bit better than the first time
Learn a little something from the worst times
Get a little stronger from the hurt times…

To the artists who make the music, and the people who are held together by it, my heart is with you all.

(Apologies to Brad, Dierks, Keith and FGL for the lifting of your lyrics, but they have always lifted me.)