Yelling Distance: Thoughts on what happened to Hailey

Posted: February 23rd, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.. -John 14:27 ESV

… Jesus, please be with Hailey’s mommy.

It’s late and I should be asleep, but I have a lot of questions.

About 8 miles from where I live, a ten-year-old little girl was walking home from a friend’s house. Jean shorts and purple sandals on the first nice day of the year. She didn’t know about the tan truck that was circling her neighborhood. The neighbors saw him, though.

He pulled over when he spotted her. “Where is Springfield Street?”

I don’t think there is a Springfield Street.

She knew enough to ignore him.

He opened his door. “Hey, come here a minute.”

Children comply before they think. Two steps was all he needed.

The neighbor’s said he threw her over his body and into the passenger seat like a “rag doll”.

The neighbor took off running after them while his wife called the cops. A kid followed him in his car but couldn’t keep up.

He drove the five miles to his house in rush hour traffic and nobody caught him. His house– where he had a three-ring binder of perversion. Abused children in photographs.

He was arrested three hours later.

Three hours has to be a record, but he still had time to tie the arms of a child who couldn’t say her “r’s”. He put a bullet in the base of her skull, got rid of his bedding, divided her body between two trash bags, and put them in a rubber storage tote. He bleached his trail and left to go to the store. He was pulling into his driveway with duct tape in his hands when they caught him.

His behavior is a mix of a complete disregard for getting caught followed by bleach-scented self-preservation.

How can someone like this stay off the radar and right under our noses? How does someone go from “respected football coach” to buying that particular roll of duct tape on a Tuesday evening? The unspeakable in between…

Those aren’t really my questions though.

In times like these, we try to find some way to sleep at night. We try to find a piece of good to grab. Mine: She didn’t suffer for a long time. But what breaks me is “what’s a long time when you’re being tortured?”  He’s not out there anymore. But, it confuses me that he was out there all along and we didn’t know it. Who else is out there?

Where I feel helpless and afraid is that this man did this in broad daylight in the front yard of people who were watching. It was so blatant that they had a hard time wrapping their minds around what they just witnessed. They yelled, memorized his license plate, called 911, chased him on foot and another in his car; and none of that detoured him. What chills me is that he was in police custody three hours later and she was already in two trash bags.

I can’t think of anything anyone could have done better. Except, maybe, not letting the 10-year-old walk around the block…like she’s done several times before. …Like I let my kids do all the time. I call the distance I allow “yelling distance”.

When things happen in other parts of the country, I remark at the terribleness of it all, then reiterate that I refuse to live my life in fear. This happened in my community. I can actually feel the space she left. I didn’t even know her.

I started writing this a few nights ago, but never finished it. I can feel myself moving forward now. There is a point when someone can become morbid, so you have to know when to put the symbols away.

Last night about 6,000 people were expected to march in a city-wide candle light vigil, but 10,000 showed up. That’s warming. I didn’t go, but that’s not typically how I deal.

I don’t know what my questions are, really. I don’t think anything could have been done any differently and that creates the fear that I’m left with. This is the part of life where I wish legalism worked. You know, where you can do everything right an nothing bad will happen to you? But I can’t change my beliefs so that they offer something that makes me feel more secure.

I have to get my security from something else. I have to define security. I have to think about what I’m trying to keep secure.

I have to trust in the middle of the scariest insecurity. It’s not a trust that God won’t allow pain to blister me. That’s not how it works. But trust that He’s still God no matter what.

I prayed for Hailey before I knew her name. She was just an Amber Alert with a vehicle description. My girls and I prayed for her when they went to sleep that night. I had no idea that she was already gone. But, I wonder, did God answer our prayers? The man who did this was captured in record time. He’s not out there haunting the sunny days, neighborhood sidewalks, and mindless wanders in our daughter’s sandals. The evidence against him is such that I don’t think we’ll have to worry about him ever again.

See? I’m grasping for the type of hope that allows me to sleep at night, to send my girls to school, and to let them wander within yelling distance.

I don’t know why God allows awful things to happen. Please don’t go to the canned expression that “we live in a depraved world”. We live in a redeemed world full of damaged people. Bad things happen because people are damaged. I’m not trying to push grace for the man in the tan truck. We’re humans with limits and I’m feeling my own limits.

“In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” -Jesus in John 16:33 MSG

I wonder about something though. Jesus said he became our sin. He assumed our sin like it was His. The stuff like the man driving up and down somebody else’s neighborhood looking for somebody else’s baby… Did he know what he was buying those trash bags for? Police found “empty bottles of bleach”. Bottles. Did the Roman soldiers feel the disgust for Jesus that we feel for the man who bought bottles of bleach and trash bags? Did they see the man when they looked at Jesus?

I don’t even know what I’m getting at. I’m just thinking: People have formed an angry social-media mob. They want a chance to be alone with this man so that they can deliver their own form of retribution. I get it. Clouded by anger and fear and a need for justice… I totally get it. Jesus says that He took on the sin of this man. An angry mob formed with His name mixed in spit on their lips. They had their way all the way until the end.

I’m wondering, was that enough? …I’m not really looking for your answer. Just think about whether your faith works in situations like this. As a Christian and as an advocate for unchurched and undomesticated grace, I inevitably think about this stuff. This is where I walk. Is all this- grace, mercy, forgiveness, …-is it real? I have no doubt that it is, but I thank God for the distance that exists between this tragedy and my own sidewalk.

I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God. - Psalm 13-14 MSG

I’m not sure that I said anything worthwhile here. I’m just processing.

I don’t want to be afraid. I don’t want to question the grace that saved me. If it’s not enough for the worst, then where is the line?

Hailey Owens

A candle lit march in memory of Hailey. February 22, 2014.




get ready

Posted: February 10th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

First plant your fields; then build your barn. - Proverbs 24:27 MSG

There are so many things you want to do. Things you wish you could do. It seems like opportunity knocks on everyone’s door but yours. The thing is, opportunity comes your way all the time, you’re just not prepared to take it up.

First plant your fields.

This proverb is talking about the order in which to do things. You don’t build a barn before you know how big of a barn you’ll need. You have to plant your fields to get that information.

It’s about order and preparation.

I think that sometimes people use God like a lottery ticket. They sit around being “good” and then expect to be rewarded for that. The sense of entitlement is confusing to the rest of the world. You feel “called” and you think that’s enough to equip you. The problem is, you’re seeing God as if His creation is flawed. I say that because you’re created in the image of a Creator. Meaning, you’re created to make an effort. You should be creating.

You can’t expect people to give you a chance if you haven’t been preparing for the job. There are questions you’ll need to answer. They’re not going to pop in your head like some psychic guru. Hone your craft. Develop yourself.

I’ve watched people start working out, update their style, and make themselves more desirable after their marriage has fallen apart. I don’t understand why they’ll do for strangers what they won’t do for their marriage. Who knows if it would have made a difference. I’m not even trying to talk about marriage here. The point is that people will sit around and wait for things to get better, but won’t do anything to make it different.

If you want to run a marathon, start training. Who cares if there isn’t a race on the horizon. There will be. If you start preparing, you’ll be ready. This post isn’t about running a marathon, either. But, if you wait until you see a race, you’ll be sitting in your old slippers watching it all run by.

Some people won’t go to college because they don’t know how they’ll pay for it. But, doesn’t preparation and education open doors?

It’s not too late for you.

You plant your field before you have a place to store the harvest.

That disposition doesn’t sit well with the lazy one. I think they can even claim wisdom by not planting until they have a place to store it.

Do you see how the excuse mentality limits God? You’ve decided, from the onset, how much you’ll have to store. Preparation is like investing. You can’t really foresee how far your effort will go. You can’t decide to put a cap on the return before you even get started. What if you have more than you have room for?

Doesn’t the scripture say that God can exceed our imagination (Ephesians 3:20)?

I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about joy.

If you want things to be different, then do something different. Save your money, throw out your old things, and get your house in order. Plant your field. When opportunity knocks, you’ll be ready.



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He hasn’t lost you.

Posted: February 6th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

People talk about the earth and inhabitants like they’re circling the drain. They approach each other with gloves of distrust. Keeping to themselves like scared and tired survivors. They gather people like assets and remove them like liabilities. Apocalyptic and fear driven, they act like we’ve been abandoned under a fading sun in a God-deprived world.

But, that’s not how I see us.

The earth and inhabitants are carrying restraints nailed down to nothing. Wearing prison garb like it’s the style. Convicts who don’t know they’re free believe in impending doom because it’s an idea that makes the most sense. It’s a belief that protects them from disappointment. I see people who hide themselves out of fear of not being loved. The sun rises and they shield their eyes. God, always present, speaks unending love and they bury the messenger.

“Hope is dangerous,” they say.  ”That kind of message makes people walk around like they’re free.” What control will they have then?

Earth is drenched in God’s affectionate satisfaction. -Psalm 33:5 MSG

Earth, pre-Jesus even, was drenched. Full of “steadfast love.”

He loves you. He hasn’t made a mistake. He hasn’t lost His cause. You are His cause and He hasn’t lost you.

The sun rises. Open your shades.

"The sun rises. Open your shades." -



my attitude adjustment

Posted: January 27th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” - James 4:6 ESV

I’m not the best at biting my tongue. Sometimes I’m so bent on knowing all there is to know that I lose touch with what made me want to know it in the first place. I ache for conversation and I’ve become contemptuous from disappointment.

God opposes the proud… I think He lets you feel the echo.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.- James 4:7 ESV

Submit. Take the attitude adjustment. Feeling like a loser, even if you played your best, serves to remind you that it’s not about how well you play. It’s not about always being right. Pride is really slippery. It can get into anything. It’s easy to justify, too. Resist, and the urge to strike will go away.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  - James 4:8 ESV

Come near to God. Make the Sovereign your refuge (Psalm 73:28). If God wants to be our refuge, then does He make sure that no other refuge works? Is that why no other refuge works?

(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. -Hebrews 7:19 ESV

You don’t get to God with your good works and your ability to obey the rules. Contrary to our natural inclination to “do-it-yourself”. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t bring peace. It just makes us unstable and cynical.

Wash your hands. You sinners. Purify your hearts. You double-minded.

It’s not a contradiction. It’s deeper than it sounds.

You can’t have it both ways, accepting a free gift and then trying to make it better with your awesomeness. As soon as you focus on how great you’re doing, something will come up and knock the wind out of you. Maybe you’ll have to watch people not as good as you succeed while you get marked off.

Maybe someone, in one way or another, will tell you that you are not worth hearing.

Pride flares up. …and that’s where you see it. The wrong motivation. The wrong drive. The wrong purpose.

We’re not here to be liked. You have to figure out another way to gauge your success.

I have to figure out another way to gauge myself.

Maybe we’re not supposed to be gauging ourselves.

Take the attitude adjustment. The sooner you soften and admit that you’ve been a little too self-focused, the sooner the peace of refuge comes.

Even Pride’s mistress gets to run away from herself.

Inner peace gives birth to patience. Patience grows up and gives birth to kindness. All of these make you, gladly, forget yourself.

I can feel the release already.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. -James 4:10 ESV



Me and my husband. I’m pretty sure I’m winning.




about faking it

Posted: January 22nd, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , | 15 Comments »

It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt?- Matthew 7:3-4 MSG

I keep seeing all of these marriage lists, blogs, and challenges designed to make your marriage better. They’re weird and I don’t know why they’re so popular. They make your relationship seem forced. I saw one yesterday that said to “look at your husband admiringly, and make sure he sees you.”

That makes me die a little inside. Do people actually think, “Oh! I need to look at my husband admiringly today”? What does “admiringly” even look like? More importantly, why doesn’t it come naturally?

I read things like this and wonder how bleak a marriage has to be that a checklist of “being nice to your spouse” is actually a helpful thing. I don’t doubt that marriages can get off track and fall into a rut. It’s heartbreaking to go through those phases when you know you’re misunderstanding one another and don’t know what went wrong.

My biggest issue with these weird checklists is that they don’t address the underlying issue. They actually cement the issue into a tomb and cover the stench of death with “good deeds” and “admiring looks”. That’s not an attitude adjustment, it’s a way to fake an attitude adjustment.

The underlying issue, the smell of death that you’re trying to cover up, is that it’s easy to see what is wrong with your spouse, and everyone else, and be blind to what is wrong with you.

It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. – Matthew 7:5 MSG

People treat their lives like a continuous social media feed. You’re more concerned with looking like you’re having fun in a photo than just having fun. You don’t have to change a cynical attitude and lack of respect if you can fake admiration and bite your tongue for a day. People actually think that they have appearances to keep up. As though their constant performance isn’t an indication that they are always in costume and never just themselves. People can see through it, you know.

Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. - Matthew 7:12 MSG

I’m pretty sure you don’t want someone to tell you that they appreciate you, and then go check it off their list.

I don’t want to rip it up too much because I want to give you a nudge more than I want to push you down and take your camera away. Stop playing a role. Stop treating your husband like an annoying pet that you’re obligated to feed. People who fake it are running from their own faults, so why don’t you work on that? In the meantime, shave your legs every day. Wear a matching bra and underwear. Don’t be a condescending dictator. Make yourself vulnerable. You can’t post pictures of that stuff.