Darkest Before the Dawn

            Some scientists claim the adage, ‘darkest before the dawn’ is not accurate in the reality of the depth of the dark skies in those early morning hours. They do concur, though, the earth radiates its heat throughout the night and just before the dawn, most of the earth’s absorbed heat from the previous day of sunshine has been dissipated back to the atmosphere. It may not be darkest before the dawn; but in a quote of one writer, “it is the coldest and most miserable.”

                Let’s stay with the darkest part of the night idea. Scientists do agree the lunar cycle will provide times when the moon is not visible and the night is darkest. Working midnight shift in law enforcement patrol for more than a dozen years probably allows me to say I find it darkest somewhere between 5 and 6 am. Maybe that is just me!

               I certainly can argue in support of the biblical statement in John 3:19, “…men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. “ Police work on the night shift  will allow even the sharpest skeptic to understand that verse.

A totally non-scientific idea about how light bulbs light a room claims it is NOT because the light bult puts out light,  rather it sucks in the darkness, which makes the room bright! The argument contends all you need do is look at a light bulb which is ‘burnt out’ and no longer working. What color is it? It’s completely dark on the inside. “See,” they say! “It got as  full of darkness as it could and then it quit working.” Light created because darkness defeated! An interesting concept!

MIT scientists have shown the light of a single candle on a dark night can be seen up to 30 miles away. A single candle. Can you imagine how far a married candle could be seen? Okay, bad joke, I get it. I just couldn’t help myself.

               Do you ever feel like you are not making any difference in the world for Christ? Ever think, ‘well, its just me and I really cannot do much on my own’…

30 miles, 1 candle, lots of darkness.

You do not have to go to the far reaches of Africa or Asia. There is plenty of darkness right outside your door. Maybe there is a lot of darkness within your home! No matter where you find the darkness, this is what Jesus said, “I am the light world” (John 8:12) and if you can carry the Gospel into the darkness, you will fulfill another Bible passage, “Let your light so shine among men that they will glorify your Father who is in heaven.”(Matthew 5:16)


Honestly, I have felt much more like the light bulb which is burnt out from sucking in all the darkness, trying to bring light to the dark. What I need to do is refocus on letting Christ’s light shine in me… I cannot create the light. I cannot suck away the darkness. I can only reflect God’s light, Jesus, into the darkness of the world around me. Someone once said, we should be glad when we feel compltely surrounded by darkness, because then the candle we carry for Christ will be seen so much better.
Thirty miles…
Thirty Mile Lighthouse on Lake Ontario

             

A FEW PATRIOTS… PROPERLY ARMED

The militia or minute-men as they came to be called knew if the British were able to seize their stockpile of weapons and ammunition, any flicker of hope for reversing the trend of tyranny would be extinguished.

LEXINGTON & CONCORD the Revolution Begins April 19, 1775

Two hundred and forty-four years ago today, a few men, mostly farmers but all patriots who believed strongly in the right to self-government, risked everything they had, their homes, their families, their lives to take a stand against what they believed to be British tyranny. It was on the night of the 18th of April 1775 when Paul Revere and many other riders quickly spread the word British troops were on their way to confiscate the weapons and ammunition of the colonies held at Concord Massachusetts.

The militia or minute-men as they came to be called knew if the British were able to seize their stockpile of weapons and ammunition, any flicker of hope for reversing the trend of tyranny would be extinguished.

It was those early days when patriotic men and families rose to the call of freedom, and for 13 years they fought and died for that freedom, which so stirred in the hearts of the nation’s founders to hold in high regard the right of a free people to keep and bear arms. Second only to the right to speak freely; the founders knew, as Jefferson so plainly stated, human nature is capable of tyranny and even within such a republic as our United States, tyrants may seek the control of the people.

The only way the tyrants gain such control is for the people to give it to them. One certain way is to allow those who would control a free people to take away the right to keep and bear arms and to form a well-regulated militia. States rights check federal rights when it comes to such issues; which is why each governor is equipped with the power to control his or her state’s national guard. Someday the tyrants may come again for the cache of guns and ammunition, though this time not at an armory in Concord, Massachusetts but in the individual homes of citizens. They will seek ways to rob the patriots of their Constitutional right. Those same patriots, who, if they are truly the lovers of freedom they confess to be,will stand firm and yield not to tyranny but allow the tree of liberty to be refreshed once again.

Let it not be said I am extolling rebellion for rebellion’s sake. The men and women of 1775 colonial America agonized over the need to repress the British control. The status quo can be oh so comfortable. Never should such action be taken without imploring the God of the Universe to act to protect the people from those who would enslave them. Divine intervention has steered history since the dawn of time and will continue to do so. Free men must act, however, as their hearts call them to act; prayerfully seeking divine wisdom and guidance.

Throughout the centuries since Lexington and Concord, tyrannies the world over have come to power by first taking the ability of citizens to own personal firearms and means of self-defense. Adolph Hitler was quick to disarm the German people and every country he seized under the name of safety and security. Communist dictators from Stalin through Putin have extolled the solidarity of the state while removing from the citizens their ability to stand against the atrocities of that state.

The iconic American, John Wayne, is quoted as saying simiply; “You think the right to carry firearms should be illegal? What other kind of stupid ideas do you have?”

While a Senator, John F. Kennedy stated the case clearly. “By calling attention to “a well regulated militia” the “security” of the nation and the right of each citizen to “keep and bear arms” the founding fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy…the Amendment still remains an important declaration of our civilian-military relationships in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason, I believe the 2nd Amendment will always be important.” Later, as President, J.F.K made it even more clear his undestnading of the Second Amendment.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The beauty of the Second Amendment is it won’t be needed until they try to take it.”

It is remarkable to me that Lexington and Concord, the initial battle for freedom in America giving birth to everything we stand for as Americans happened in Massachusetts. One of the strongest supporters politically for the Second Amendment, John F. Kennedy, a U.S. Navy Veteran and awarded the Purple Heart in WWII was from Massachusetts.

How can it be that as close as Vermont is to the cradle of American patriotism, during the Revolutionary War, Loyalists and Revolutionaries were at each others’ throats. One of their most stalwart and wealthy individuals, John Munro fought bravely in the Revolutionary War – on the side of the British! So disdained were his actions his wife Mary had to flee to Canada. Today, of course, Vermont is the home of Senator Bernie Sanders, the most blatant Communist since Kruchev banged his shoe on the table of the U.N. to get attention! Sanders is quoted as saying, “I belive military style weapons designed to kill human beings should not be sold or distributed in the United States.” By basic definition, that would include my Colt 45 ACP or any other 1911 handgun… hmmm. From there the slope gets even more slippery! I’ll close with this photo that references back to my comment on Germany…

Thank God for the patriots of Lexington and Concord and all those who have come after them and who are yet to come; who have given or will give their all to protect America’s freedom!

The Path

a little bit of time for some introspection and a chance to talk with God about life, love and the meaning of the universe

A walk along a mountain ridge outside of Keezletown, Virginia on an early morning recently allowed me a little bit of time for some introspection and a chance to talk with God about life, love and the meaning of the universe.

As I looked across at the hills in the distance and then glanced down the path in front of me, I was struck by how barren it looked. The brown and dead look of winter seemed to hang over the path like a dreary curtain pulled over the sunshine of the blue morning sky. There was no sign of green life anywhere… or so it seemed.

It seemed odd, it was late March and April was only a few days away, where was any sign of spring? I had to stop on the path, quit my focus on just moving forward and standstill to look more closely. Every brown twig that looked so bleak in passing actually held a small bud of a new leaf about to sprout. Within the next two weeks, this same path will be bursting forth in green and already some signs of pink on the cheery blossom trees were there for those who stoppped long enough to see them.

Life is like the path I was on… there are times our path seems so bleak, so dreary and there are no signs of new life. Down right depressing! But then we stop and we look a little more closely and sure enough, there are signs God is turning the world a little at a time and the change of seasons is still happening even when we fail to see it. I was blessed God allowed me a minute to stop on the path and notice the hope of spring. Maybe, I’ll be a little quicker to stop more often and take in a fesh breath of springtime to push away some of the dark winter has left behind.

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.

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!