Sunday, February 03, 2008


You've probably read about the shooting that took place yesterday in Tinley Park, Illinois. Tinley is a suburb of Chicago on the southwestern side of the city. It is also the town I grew up in. The murders took place in a strip mall that did not exist when I lived there. That side of town was all corn. It was about one mile from my house and maybe half a mile to my church. I graduated from Tinley Park High School. One of my "serious" girlfriends was from Tinley. My family lived in two houses there during my parents 22 year stay there. My wife and I lived in 3 different apartments there during our first years of marriage. When I think of the words "home town" that is the place that comes to mind. Sure, I call myself a "Chicagoan." But that was merely the identity of the region. For all practical purposes I learned to live, love, and laugh in Tinley Park. I came to know Jesus as my Savior in that church just blocks from the site of the shootings.

Tinley Park is a great town. Actually, less than two years ago I was asked to return there and pastor the church I grew up in. It was tempting to say "yes" simply because it would be like ... you know ... going back. It would be like giving something to the place that gave so much to me. I said "no." It just was not God's direction for me. I would have been happy to relocate there if He had let me. He didn't.

But I love that town. I seldom go back but only because I really don't know anybody there anymore. But when I do make the occasional trip through the village streets it feels like home. And knowing what took place there makes me sad in a way that I really cannot explain. Tinley Park is generally a peaceful place. It was a great place to grow up. The people are friendly and the town cares about the way it looks. It takes a sense of pride in its identity. And that identity has been violated. They have been added to the ever growing list of communities that are linked together by the tragedy of mass murder. And it just isn't right.

My last few years as a "single guy" i use to run the streets and sidewalks of Tinley Park late at night. My route would end at 179th and Harlem Ave. The shootings occurred at 191st and Harlem Avenue. That's 12 blocks from where I turned around. The streets I would run were tree lined and the homes were ... and are ... filled with young families that are living the American dream. Events like the one that transpired yesterday make me wonder what the American dream really is. I mean, evil is attacking it on every side. I do not think that the dream is a myth. I do think that it is being attacked from a deadly enemy that would happily destroy us all. This reinforces my belief that the only safe place to be is in the Holy Hand of our Heavenly Father. Anyplace else is very, very dangerous indeed.

I am sad for my hometown tonight. I am sad for our country. Sad for our way of life. I hope they catch the guy who did this horrible deed. But there are more like him. And they will continue to surface and carry out the will of our enemy, Satan.

There is but one hope. And His name is Jesus. And it is my sincere prayer that He is working overtime in Tinley Park tonight. It's a great town. It doesn't deserve this pain. But then ... who does?