AN ODD AWAKENING

WOW, I think to myself… Hotel security at my door, at midnight… I have my own wife with me… What could it possibly be?

IT IS JUST ABOUT MIDNIGHT. Our hotel room is dark and quiet (with perhaps the intermittent gentle snoring for which I am famous.) Karin and I are in Columbus for a couple of days and I jokingly mentioned to her that our room is ‘murder central’ – a pun related to a television reference to rooms at the end of the hall by the stairwell. On this occasion, we are both sound asleep when a seriously loud and the prolonged BANG BANG BANG of a fist on our door. As always, our door is double locked, an alarm wedged between the door and the floor and my Colt .45 at my side.

AGAIN, BANG, BANG, BANG. I call out who is it? A deep voice responds, SECURITY! It was a business-like tone that told me this has nothing to do with our neighbors complaining about the snoring!  

I make my way to the door and removing the alarm wedge, I look through the peep-hold and see a very large person in a security uniform standing there and not looking very happy. 

WOW, I think to myself… Hotel security at my door, at midnight… I have my own wife with me… What could it possibly be? I get horrific thoughts of bad news from home… Karin speculates that something happened to our truck. Nothing prepared me for what I would see when I opened the door.

I open the door to find this very professional looking security person looking less than pleased at me and at his feet stands the cutest little four-year-old girl in pajamas, wrapped in a blanket looking scared to death.

Obviously irritated, at me I suppose, because he thinks I am the negligent father or grandfather who has allowed this child to go strolling the hotel at night, the guard demands, “DO YOU KNOW HER?”

“No, Sir” I replied. His expression changed and with compassion he looks at the girl and asks, “Tell me what you think your room number is again?”

The guard apologizes for bothering us and I volunteer to help him find her parents if he needs assistance. He said he would handle it, “But thanks” he said.

I went back to bed with a prayer for that little girl to find her parents and thanking God for a security guard who really cared.

Holding the Line

A citizen, then, who stands alongside one whose faculties may be diminished, or who, simply, is under duress by persons in some place of authority with the power to negatively impact that person’s standard of living, the protector is most honorable.

Perhaps few people will be required across their life time to take a stand for their principles on behalf of others. It is a noble thing to be true to one’s self and to maintain those principles one has decided for themselves, “this is a truth I will not disavow, for it is a belief, a practice, or a rule for my own self-care, which I know is best for me to follow for my personal well-being.” A person who struggles with alcoholism may maintain such a personal practice, knowing that to violate this one specific rule, such as the frequenting of a certain tavern, will lead eventually to his own self’s relenting to drinking which will lead to negative consequences.

Wise individuals will set and adhere to such personal lines of discipline. Such is not uncommon and often, these wise folks will enlist the aid of friends or confidants to provide help in times of temptation. For these people, the issue is personal, the negative consequences are personal as well. The line that they have drawn is a personal one and, other than those who will provide assistance, everything about the possible challenge to it will come to the individual as a private matter. The individual is motivated to keep his or her standard out of a sense of care for one’s self.

Fewer are the people who are in situations where they have either a moral or legal obligation to maintain a specific principle or uphold a value on behalf of someone else, not a family member. Certain professions have a code of ethics that demands certain discretions. Others have legal mandates requiring such privilege. An attorney may hold to an attorney-client privilege that forbids the attorney from disclosing specific types of information, except under very narrow circumstances. A physician holds a moral obligation to privileged communication which is enforced in the U.S. by very specific federal legislation, which places the physician in the position of legal liability if they or a member of their staff discloses medical information considered privileged. Clergy also hold to a strict level of confidentiality between the clergy and a counselee and on a higher moral line is the revered sanctity of the confessional and the priest and petitioner. In each of these, some higher level is enforcing the maintenance of the confidence. Avoiding legal liability or a perceived moral or spiritual liability is often the primary motivator for adhering to the standard.

What is most unusual currently in the 21st Century is a person who, by the profession in which they are employed has access to another’s personal information and chooses. because of their respect for the privacy rights of their client, their own personal moral or spiritual convictions, to protect the privacy of another person, whether client or other similar relationship, at the risk of their job, their career standing and their own personal well-being.

When such a person takes a stand to protect another individual’s privacy and there is no information on a criminal act or information that could harm someone if not released, our American society is the better. Our founding fathers prized personal freedom and the protection of privacy higher than any other. A citizen, then, who stands alongside one whose faculties may be diminished, or who, simply, is under duress by persons in some place of authority with the power to negatively impact that person’s standard of living, the protector is most honorable. When those unconscionable persons put an individual in a situation where they need a protector, the guardian should be given every assistance possible by others within our society who have the potential to be a positive help. When the protector-guardian is threatened with a loss of job or other punitive action and the protector remains resolute in their protection of their charge’s privacy, every person with any voice should raise a clarion call to aid the protector in their role.

When the guardian’s charge, who requires the protection of their privacy is a veteran of the United States’ armed forces, the guardian is, without hyperbole, a hero. A veteran, who, because of their own service to protect the rights of others, now faces some diminished capacity and becomes a victim of duress by a bureaucratic organization and that organization then terminates the job of the guardian and verbally assaults the protector of the veteran’s rights – that organization should feel the full weight of the federal government charged to protect the inalienable rights of its citizens. A full and formal investigation of the company is in order. May the protector of this veteran experience the gratitude and respect of our nation at the highest levels.

May God richly bless the guardian and all who walk in their shoes.

SCANDALOUS

“As Christians, our purpose is to love those people the way Jesus loves them – with generous compassion, scandalous grace, and undeniable truth.”

ONE of my favorite Bible passages is John 1:16. In the NKJV it reads, “And of His fullness we have all received and grace for grace.”  It can also be rendered, grace upon grace’ , that is over and over again, never stopping, just continuous grace! I  heard it described once in this manner…

GRACE. God’s wonderful, matchless, unwarranted riches of forgiveness and love lavished upon people like me who were enemies of God, not loving, nor caring about Christ, God’s only Son who, not only was with the Father as the Creator of the universe; but, became the sacrificial lamb. Beaten so horrifically and murdered in a way by which no human, nor any creature should ever be subjected. Yet, by His grace, He made me an heir to His kingdom, a son, righteous only by the blood of Christ; but loved with a love so deep, so pure, and never ending.

Imagine a beautiful mountain stream, fresh, sparkling clean, amazing in taste and unmatched in its refreshment and with the sound of the water flowing along, the wind wafting along, lightly in the trees, birds and animals gathering to enjoy the wonderful early afternoon sight. For me, the smell of lilac, fresh and flowing on the air makes the scene complete. In that scene, the flowing water is God’s grace. One pastor described kneeling at that stream and drinking in the cool water to his heart’s content. I picture it differently. I throw myself headlong into the water, submerging myself and coming to the surface where I stretch out in the stream and allow the water to flow over me, knowing that every second the grace is new, it is fresh, and it will never run out. Every part of me completely engulfed by the refreshing stream. I find myself completely lost in its embrace.

Bighorn Mountain Lake

In a session for the Bible study, ROOTED: Connect with God the Church your Purpose, in teaching on GRACE, is written… “As Christians, our purpose is to love those people the way Jesus loves them – with generous compassion, scandalous grace,  and undeniable truth.” (emphasis added) I love that term! Scandalous grace! Defined, scandalous is at once, shocking or outrageous. That describes such love, particularly in Jesus’ time when He was seen lavishing love on an adulterous woman of the street by forgiving her of all she had done. Jesus love was certainly not the physical love we are drawn to imagine, but for the religious folks of Jesus’ time, the other definitions would fit HIS grace…  Think about how the self-righteous religious leaders of Jesus time (and perhaps even ours) might picture Jesus’ grace on those they saw as too low to speak with, to reprehensible to share a meal or clothing. Try these: disgraceful, immoral, shameful, indecent, disreputable, appalling, reprehensible, wicked… For Jesus to sit at the well and speak openly to the Samaritan woman, really! It was not just a woman He was lowering Himself to address, not just a poor woman, but a Samarian!

In a session for the Bible study, ROOTED: Connect with God the Church your Purpose, in teaching on GRACE, is written… “As Christians, our purpose is to love those people the way Jesus loves them – with generous compassion, scandalous grace,  and undeniable truth.” (emphasis added) I love that term! Scandalous grace! Defined, scandalous is at once, shocking or outrageous. That describes such love, particularly in Jesus’ time when He was seen lavishing love on an adulterous woman of the street by forgiving her of all she had done. Jesus love was certainly not the physical love we are drawn to imagine, but for the religious folks of Jesus’ time, the other definitions would fit HIS grace…  Think about how the self-righteous religious leaders of Jesus time (and perhaps even ours) might picture Jesus’ grace on those they saw as too low to speak with, to reprehensible to share a meal or clothing. Try these: disgraceful, immoral, shameful, indecent, disreputable, appalling, reprehensible, wicked… For Jesus to sit at the well and speak openly to the Samaritan woman, really! It was not just a woman He was lowering Himself to address, not just a poor woman, but a Samarian!

Then, of course, we have Mary, a woman no stranger to immorality and demeaning relationships with apparently multiple men… not only did Jesus love her with grace unmatched by anything the world had ever known, but He allowed her to express her thankfulness by pouring rich, fragrant perfume in his hair and by that publicly show the depth of her love for Him… certainly the religious leaders thought it disgraceful, immoral, shameful… Jesus’ grace to them was all of those. Even to Judas, an apostle… he could not fathom how Jesus would allow such a thing. Although Judas’ concern was more for the money he was losing by not having his own hands on that perfume than the indecency of Christ’s allowing such a show of affection!

THE GRACE of GOD,  poured out on mankind by CHRIST… absolutely SCANDALOUS!

PRAISE GOD!

Survival Strong

What you take away from this article may mean the difference between your own or your officer’s survival and not letting the evil, that sought to destroy, win.

In today’s world, every minute has the potential to turn into a life or death decision for law enforcement officers. A decision made by a cop in a split-second of sheer terror, judges and law makers can ruminate over for months or years. They will take all that time to judge those actions made in the blink of an eye. Thankfully, police officers react in times of threat based on their training and experience. Sometimes, the bad guys win the moment; but, not the day. What you take away from this article may mean the difference between your own or your officer’s survival and not letting the evil, that sought to destroy, win.

Professional police prepare physically to enhance their strength and their endurance to handle the fights which come after the foot chase of someone ten years their junior. They build upper body strength and they diligently work to improve their competence with their firearms, both on and off-duty guns. They are aware of which holster works best in specific circumstances and they jealously watch over their tactical equipment keeping it all in place and ready. I never left the house for a shift without the pat-check by my wife. That’s the tap that comes during the ‘see you later – have a good night’ kiss assuring her that her cop had his protective vest on.

Over 30 years ago, police survival instructors developed the concept of survival role-play. It is a mental exercise where officers on patrol visualize a possible scenario in their jurisdiction of an armed encounter and how they would react. The training stressed the need for positive outcomes. Even in the mental role-play, if the officer visualized themselves as shot in the encounter, they always also visualized themselves as surviving the event.

Being mentally prepared for whatever is coming next is perhaps the most difficult area for being survival strong. How can you be prepared for something when you have no idea what it might be? The possibilities are almost endless. So, how does one figure out which ones are the most likely to be on your horizon? What if you can have no way of knowing what it might be? What do you do? There is only one sure way of being completely prepared for whatever might come your way and to be the one who will be ready to respond no matter what.

In firearms training, for accuracy and consistency it is critical to have a solid shooting foundation. If the shooter is in a standing position, there is a certain way that the feet should be planted, the knees, flexed, the shoulders and forearms aligned, the wrists kept straight. If not able to shoot from a standing position or it is necessary to move while shooting, there are still foundational methods which enable the shooter to keep aim on target and effectively send the shots down range.

When involved in a high-speed pursuit, there are very specific skills the driver must use to keep the car upright, on a solid path and box-in or overtake the offender to affect a safe apprehension. None of those skills can be completely effective, however, if the vehicle the officer is driving is not in good shape, with good tires, solid steering and dozens of other normally minute issues which become incredibly important when speeds scream past 100 miles per hour. If the foundation of the driver’s training and well-cared-for equipment is not solid, the risks spiral upward and the expectations for a safe end to the pursuit dwindle.

Award-winning author and columnist, Regina Brett wrote, “It doesn’t matter what has happened to you, it matters what you do with what has happened to you. Life is like a poker game. You don’t get to choose the cards you are dealt, but it’s entirely up to you how to play the hand.”[i] I’m going to ask her to indulge me when I add a qualification to her quotable-quote. Let’s consider the poker analogy. First, players, must ante up. They put in the chips agreed upon for beginning the pot. Then, once they see what they have been dealt, players can opt to fold or continue to play. A player who folds risks nothing further; but, they lose what they have put in so far. Even though there is nothing left for them to lose, they have no opportunity to gain anything more either.

Those who have not folded are known as active players. When all active players have contributed an equal amount to the pot, the betting round ends. According to the variant being played, further cards may be dealt, or players may have an opportunity to exchange some cards, after which there is another betting round, and so on. When the last betting round has ended there is a showdown. All active players show their cards, and the owner of the best five-card hand takes the contents of the pot. If at any point only one active player remains, that player automatically wins the pot without having to show any cards.

The objective is of course to win money, and there are two ways to do this.

  1. To have the best five-card hand at the showdown.
  2. To persuade all the other players to fold.[ii]

When you decide to sit in this poker game called life and you choose, as many reading this article have, to serve your community in a very hazardous, life-threatening role which few people understand and even fewer appreciate, your ante is in and you have already decided folding, at this point is not an option. You came to play and not to fold. The betting round has begun, and you are all-in, right from the beginning. Every chip you have, your time, your talent, your skills, your family time and yes, even your life is on the table and how you play your cards matters more than anyone can imagine.

Here is where part of the analogy of Ms. Brett’s needs to expand just a little. Technically, she is correct; you don’t get to choose the cards you’re dealt. But, as part of your deciding how to play the hand, you may opt to replace some of the cards you were dealt originally and get new ones. You do not know what they will be; but you do have the option to initially discard those which do nothing to help you, those you believe will hinder your success and keep what you believe are best. It could be staying stuck in bad past experiences – that’s a card to discard. Your tendency to have habits which are detrimental to your health – another set of cards to discard. Being forced to ‘play the hand you’re dealt’ is not completely true.

According to the rules of the game, the objective is to have the best hand at showdown or convince all the other players to fold. Remember what I wrote?  You have all your chips in. Once all your chips are in it includes your family and your life. You have only two options when it’s time for showdown. You must either have the very best hand or force the others to fold. There can be no other options. Everything you do to prepare to play the game will set the foundation for the showdown. It may be the tactical training you have absorbed. It may be your attention to your situational awareness senses. However, it may also be a divine appointment.

There is one given about the poker game we call life. So far, in history, only two persons got out of this life without dying. One was Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and the other Elijah (2 Kings 2). One was simply no longer, and the other God took up in a whirlwind. Very likely, both will be back in what is called the “End Times” and they will be killed and resurrected during that time. Even Jesus died before He rose again and then returned to heaven. Everyone who sits down at life’s poker game will have a divine appointment and then the showdown. The foundation upon which you have built your hand must have one specific card in it – the card of your acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord. You have prepared to survive every dark evil that comes your way as a strong, gifted, committed, professional law enforcement officer. That foundation is strong. Why would you risk your eternity by not preparing to survive? That one card is foundational.

Then, learn this well. Every game you play in life, for every showdown – before your divine appointment, will only come together if you keep, in every hand, the card of your acceptance of Christ. It will change how you play each hand. You will no longer be looking for what it is to win; but you will know every win you receive is a gift from God. Everything you do will be focused on how that card impacts every other card in your hand. It is your choice to keep that card and not to fold; but, to play each hand with everything you have – all in.

Many years ago, there was a cartoon posted on our bulletin board at work. It showed a stork with a frog in its bill. Reaching out from the beak of the stork, the frog had his hands wrapped around the stork’s neck, trying to choke him. The caption read, Never Give Up! The strength of your faith will be the foundation upon which you survive. Regardless of the rest of the cards in your hand and no matter how the evil of this world throws every jagged barb at you, your foundation will remain strong as you exercise your faith, you nurture it and you sustain it. An interesting thing about faith, it is not something you acquire for yourself or for which you are responsible to obtain, it is a gift. God’s Word tells us that we are saved by grace through faith and that God is the One who gives us that faith. We can nourish it, but God grows it!

In today’s world, if you work your entire career in law enforcement or other similar public service, you may never hear one single of word of thanks or appreciation for what you do. I hope you do. In fact, if you are reading this right now, I am telling you that I, and every member of my family, appreciates you. I can also assure you of two things. First, God sees everything that you do in His Name. Second, He will reward you for it some day in the not too far distant future. Keep building your foundation, keep strengthening to be survival strong, keep training, keep practicing and preparing, and NEVER FOLD.


[i] http://www.reginabrett.com/

[ii] https://www.pagat.com/poker/rules/A

WAR ZONE

…we live in a war zone. There will be casualties

I have written in past days about my first experiences in Bosnia Herzegovina not very long after the cessation of open war. I use the term open war because the hatred and the racial and societal issues still divide the country and corruption stops any real forward progress in defeating the enemy.

It is difficult to describe a war zone. The buildings that once were homes, businesses, churches are just bombed out shells, with no life save the foraging insects and vermin that root among the remains looking for what else they can devour.

A hand painted sign reading welcome to Sarajevo covered in shrapnel caused pock-marks
Iconic Sarajevo sign 1995

Where people still reside, apartment buildings have shell holes that allow in the winter wind and the outside is pock-marked, the results of shrapnel tearing apart at the structure trying to weaken it.

There is a stark analogy between the physical war zone I witnessed in Sarajevo and remote areas of the countryside and the spiritual battles we face today. In Bosnia, no place was left untouched. Specific places had horrific stories of hate-driven carnage and we see the same in the battles Satan wages upon our world. I have felt the darkness of Satan’s demonic power more in Bosnia than anywhere else I have traveled but, it is only because there the mask of civilization was ripped away, and Satan’s plans were open for anyone to see. In the rest of our world, often, we keep the mask of civility and Satan’s attacks are, perhaps, not unseen, but unnoticed  by an uncaring society too wrapped in their own pain and secular drives to respond.

In the Bible we read, Satan is a roaring lion, prowling around seeing whom he may devour, just like the vermin crawling among the carnage of Bosnia’s war. Paul tells us our war is not against flesh and blood but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)

A fierce looking lion crouched as if to pounce surrounded by a black background with the words Our Adversary the Devil

God has permitted Satan to have dominion over the world until the time He finishes it and brings Satan to destruction and all who believe in Christ are His forever in peace. God waits, not because He is cruel but because He is patient and loving. Peter explains it, writing that God is “not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”(2 Peter 3:9)

Until then, as one writer put it, “Satan’s attack means that we all are vulnerable to sickness, betrayal, financial meltdown, relational loss, emotional despair and other hardships… bad things happen to good people… we live in a war zone. There will be casualties.” (Rooted, Mariners Church 2011 p 85)

In our spiritual battles, there will be homes empty, just shells remaining where once there were families. There will be businesses and churches gone, only the few, scattered remains from a bombing by sin and failure. Where people still reside, there will be shell holes letting in the cold winter wind, chilling the soul and hardening the heart; the explosive remains of  damaged relationships, lost trust and horrific sin. The lives of those struggling to survive are pock-marked by the shrapnel of sin which has left its mark upon them.

There is hope.

The damage of war can be overcome and what was once uninhabitable shells of homes and broken down lives can come to life again like spring after a hard winter. The refreshing breeze of peace and love that comes only from Jesus Christ through His victory over death and sin.  When it coms to spiritual battles, as the ‘Rooted’ book spells out, “And (the Lord) wins. Every. Single. Time.” (p 85)

Someone once wrote how, in the darkest of places, a single candle burns brightest. I saw such a candle in Bosnia. It came in the form of a simple, unpretentious man who loved His Lord and loved every single person God sent his way in a very dark place. The flame of his candle lit many small candles which will burn for generations when the Spirit moves to set those candles within His lampstand.

A completely dark black frame with one bright flame from a candle visible in the darkness

John writes, “We know that we are children of God and that the world is under the control of the evil one.” That is disconcerting to say the least. But in context, we find hope. The verse just before this one reads, “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God (that’s Jesus)keeps him (that’s you if you truly believe)and the evil one (that’s Satan) does not touch him. Jesus told us we would have trouble in this world, but the Good News is that Jesus has overcome the world! He said so! Jesus doesn’t lie. Satan’s attacks will be all around us, but as believers, saved by grace through faith, even if we die because of a sinful world’s sickness, we are safe, secure, in heaven forever with Him.   

We live in a war zone. Live under the banner of the victor. Take heed to what He teaches about daily survival and keep a long-view, looking toward the completion of all things under Christ.

THE LAST BREATH

They’ll keep the flag flying with a fresh and freeing breeze… not by death; but, by freedom from the highest mountains to the seas!

It’s been said our great flag flies not by the wind which rustles the leaves;

But, with the very last breath every fallen soldier breathes.

When on nights, so cold the air freezes in your chest, the flag flies high and brings a tightness to your breast,

Then come the memories of those past wars, the wounds, the faces and the scars.

Each one is reflected in the colored stripes and bold stars.

Every generation past and yet to come, will certainly be asked

To share their best for freedom and faithfully complete the task.

They’ll keep the flag flying with a fresh and freeing breeze… not by death; but, by freedom from the highest mountains to the seas!

Line of Duty

Keep building your foundation, keep strengthening to be survival strong, keep training, keep practicing and preparing, and NEVER FOLD.”

How wide is the Line? How straight the path? What is it within a person driving them to take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, to uphold the laws of the city, county or state for which they serve? For so many, it is a dream of a lifetime to someday become part of the Thin Blue Line. Just last summer, Natalie Corona fulfilled a lifetime dream of receiving her commission as a police officer for the City of Davis in California and on January 10, 2019, Officer Corona was gunned down while responding to a traffic crash.  She had told her father, before attending the police academy, “Dad, this is what I want to do.” Her father is a retired Colusa County Sheriff’s Deputy. No doubt her Dad is asking the same question  many retired law enforcement officers ask themselves each time another officer is killed in the line of duty. Why them? Why not me?

No doubt, most every retired police officer has faced a share of hard times, even wounds and some debilitating injuries. This author is one of those who has shared in instances where life was on the line and has scars and pain to remind me of the good ol’ days. I survived. I lived long enough to be able to complain about the pension fund and look with envy upon the young officers who are now walking the Line, praying for them daily because the threats are real, and the Line is narrow. I fulfilled my early life’s dream to be a police officer like my oldest brother and I have seen, now, my son pin on the badge. How the Line will fare for him, only the Lord knows and thankfully, my son trusts in Christ’s capable hands.

Each year, as the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty increases, there are thousands of officers who bend their knees in prayer to ask the Lord’s grace upon the families and department for each one. The Lord knows when every sparrow falls and, so much more, when servants of the public lay down their lives. Christ spoke highly of those who lay down their lives for others.

Recently, I wrote an article titled Survival Strong which I hope will appear soon in the POFCI magazine. In that article, I wrote:

“I can also assure you of two things. First, God sees everything that you do in His Name. Second, He will reward you for it some day in the not too far distant future. Keep building your foundation, keep strengthening to be survival strong, keep training, keep practicing and preparing, and NEVER FOLD.”

Again, to the family of Natalie Corona and the Davis Police Department, I send our prayers and deepest sympathies. To Natalie’s father, I give the assurance of Scripture when Jesus says, “No greater love has any man than this that he lay down his life for a friend.” May she be remembered always for her zeal and dedication to law enforcement. Would it be Natalie’s would be the last line of duty death for 2019, though we know such is not to be.

May God bless each and every officer and keep them safe, trusting in the strength of Christ.

Clouds on the horizon create a reminder of the Thin Blue Line
Photo by Daniel W. Riggs, used by permission from “Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat”