NORMAL

Alfred E. Newman MAD Magazine courtesy USA Today

A social media pass-along that was popular about four years ago is making its rounds again. I want to gratefully acknowledge the work of the original author and add my own perspective to it. The piece explains how the fake news and social media worlds have tried to redefine me. (That would be the corporate ‘me’ – all of us white, American, over-60 types.) 

I will tell you up front I reject the new definitions and if you read to the end I’ll explain why. I still enjoy what he wrote because it is poignant and thought provoking.  I’ll send a note of regrets to the author of the original monograph if I ever learn who it is because what he wrote is well done. I just think I need to add some qualifiers of my own.  So here goes. My additions are italicized. 

I Used to Be A Normal Person and I think I still am mostly normal, except when I make a joke and my young grandchildren just shake their heads or roll their eyes!  

As a man, I used to think I was pretty much just a regular person, but I was born white, into a two-parent household which now, whether I like it or not, some define me as “Privileged”, a racist & responsible for slavery. Some say tax dollars should be taken from those who never owned slaves to pay reparations to those who never were slaves. The logic in that escapes me. 

I am a fiscal & moral conservative, which by today’s standards, has folks try to define me a fascist because I plan, budget & support myself. I assume that has to do with fascism’s strict regimentation of society and the economy, but the rest of the connection escapes me completely. 

Advantages of church as family

I went to High School, paid my way thru college, earned a degree, & have always held a job. But I now find out that these same folks try to tell me I’m not here because I earned it, but because I was “advantaged.” I suppose I was advantaged that I lived in a country that permitted me to get an education if I chose to continue, even if I had to pay for it after the government gave me 12 or 13 years of ‘free education’. I was advantaged because I had parents who taught me to earn what I desired and not expect it  be given to me and I saw my parents scrimp and save, sometimes ‘borrowing’ from our allowance in our piggy banks to buy milk a few days before their own pay day even when they were both working long hours to make ‘ends meet’. I always saw them pay back that which they ‘borrowed’ from us, too. I was advantaged because I had parents who loved me enough to go with me to church, often three times a week, regardless of the weather. So, to those who claim I was ‘advantaged’ – you are sort of correct but not in the way you think.  

I am heterosexual, which according to some “gay” folks, now makes me a homophobe. In inserted the word ‘some’ because to say here, that all gay persons would think of me as a homophobe because I am heterosexual is as prejudiced and demeaning to all gays as it is to all non-gays. We may not always think and act as individuals, but we are responsible for what we think and do as an individual and should not be cast into any mass definition no matter what side of the issue one finds themselves 

I am not a Muslim, which now labels me as an infidel. If the actual definition of infidel is one who does not believe in the god of Mohammad, then I accept that moniker gladly. Does it mean I hate those who define themselves as Muslims? No, absolutely not! I absolutely adore and love some who profess the Muslim faith, or have it as their heritage, with whom I shared many life experiences. I long to see them again and I pray for them very frequently. Some of them are among the finest people I have known. 

I believe in the 2nd Amendment, which pushes others to label me a Defacto member of the “vast NRA gun lobby” For many reasons I am a member of the NRA but I fight against and speak strongly against some of the things I disagree with in the organization. The NRA does much good; but they do not speak for me, nor does anyone else speak for me, excepting, the representatives who have been elected by majority vote to do so. Still, to those I regularly make my singular opinions known. My voice is my own, and if I do not choose to use it, the fault is mine not the systems’.  

I am older than 60, who some would say makes me a useless person who doesn’t understand Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. That, to quote a television personality of the 1970’s, is ‘straight off the stable floor’. (Col. Potter, M*A*S*H played by Henry Morgan) 

Harry Morgan as Col. Sherman Potter, MASH 4077

I think & I reason, and I doubt much of what the “mainstream” media tells me, which makes me a “Right-wing conspiracy nut” according to people whose opinions mean nothing to me. 

I am proud of my heritage & our inclusive American culture, making me a xenophobe. Having spent over fifteen years ministering across Central and Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and the Near East while also having an ‘adopted’ Filipino daughter and her family, also numbered in my grandchildren, that too is buffalo bagels.  

I believe in hard work, fair play, & fair compensation according to each individual’s merits, which today some say makes me an anti-socialist. I am against socialism as a political platform alongside Communism. I am also against socialism as an economic theory. I am for the caring for those who are least able to care for themselves, particularly widows, orphans and the infirm. It is the responsibility of individuals, families and the universal church, however, to provide for their care and not the ‘government’ I.e. taxpayer. If family members would meet their responsibilities to the best of their abilities and the local churches would heed the command of Christ to care for those, particularly those of the household of faith, rather than expecting the government to provide the safety net for all things; then the high prices of prescriptions and health care could be driven by the economic forces responsive to a capitalist structure rather than a no-price-is-too-high welfare system. 

I believe our system guarantees freedom of effort – not freedom of outcome or subsidies which must make me according to some a borderline sociopath. Those who truly know me, know I am not ‘borderline’ anything. I am either all in or not at all. If I were truly a sociopath, there would be no question!  

I believe in the defense & protection of America for & by all citizens, now causing me to be defined as a militant. Former President Obama  became infamous for saying about those of us in the mid-west, “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Thus, we become either considered militant or just plain bitter. I saw an interesting quote recently concerning gun control. It said, to the effect of, “There are 393 million gun-owners in America. If we were the problem, you’d know it.” Bitter Militants would be a force with which a left-wing socialist dare not reckon.  

Redefining Patriot?

I am proud of our flag, what it stands for and the many who died to let it fly, so I stand & salute during our National Anthem – so I must be a racist according to this myth woven by the ignorant unknown mass of society.  

Here the original author wrote using sarcasm to make his point:  

Please help me come to terms with the new me because I’m just not sure who I am anymore! 

Of course, that isn’t true, or it wouldn’t be sarcasm. But in all honesty, I know exactly who I am and my sixty plus years so far have helped me to be more certain of it than ever. (This is the part I promised at the beginning). 

I am a child of the One true God, creator of heaven and earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The triune God who exists from eternity past and was not created but is Creator who exists as One God in three persons, God the Father, God the Son-Jesus Christ who came as Messiah and lived a sinless life, was crucified, buried and resurrected completing payment for the sins of all mankind giving grace for forgiveness to all who believe and repent, who reigns on high for evermore, and God the Holy Spirit who indwells every born-again believer sanctifying them as they grow in their Christian walk and calls the unredeemed allowing those who are dead in their sins to know their sin condition and leads them to repentance. I am not perfect but am being made complete. I am positionally already in heaven so I need never doubt or question what will become of me when I die.  

The original author wrote: 

It all took place over the last 8 years of Socialist Democratic political control; (I believe he is referring to the Obama administration) it’s time to finally get rid of these fools. (He is referring to the quantifying of persons by some obtuse methods as he lists above. I’d prefer to be more specific on who to ‘get rid of’ and if he wants to use the term fool, I’ll let him, but I might have another term I’d use!)  

He concludes in great sarcastic form 

If all this nonsense wasn’t enough to deal with, now I don’t even know which restroom to use… and I gotta go more FREQUENTLY! 

Can I Get a Little Cheese with that Whine?

If we use a biblical lens to look at the idea of whether we should stuff our problems away because they are small compared to someone else’s, what do we see?

In the last week I faced a tough question. Is it possible to face another surgery? The immediate public answer is, ‘of course!’ While Gunner (my Black Lab, Shepherd, Chow mix) and I were actively involved visiting patients at the local hospitals, I met a great many heroes. Lots of them are young children and have faced many more surgeries than me and are facing many more. They have an internal fortitude, often a faith, but each I met had a tenacity that was far and above my own. I tried to count the number I have had. It is somewhere around twenty. After breaking my leg (the left fibula just above the ankle) in October, wearing a cast for weeks, undergoing PT then learning that my bone was still as broken as it was on day one; I was scheduled for surgical repair this past February. Two weeks with a special cast then a regular cast and then a boot and finally… this past Wednesday, April 30th set free! The doc said all looked good and I was free to ambulate!

Freedom lasted about five hours until I tripped in my bathroom and twisted the same foot! It is possible I have torn one of the extensor tendons which run the length of the top of the foot. I will know this coming Thursday if it is torn and if it is, it will require surgery. Of course, as summer approaches, my Harley sits longingly in the garage and my bass boat cries out from storage for release. Those things are going to be put on hold yet again! I have been feeling like each recovery has taken some of the fire from my soul. I was all set to talk myself into a truly blue mood.

Then, news came from a dear friend, younger than me, who has been battling cancer and was hopeful that it was annihilated. The cancer remains, however, in a small tumor. It is not devastating news, but it is not the news we wanted. To be very honest, such news makes my entire first two paragraphs seems totally ego-centric and whiny!

Are they? Do we need to measure our hurts, anxieties, and stresses by considering what others bear? Each of us have been there, just not feeling well, being down in our spirit, aching for something we cannot describe and we long to lay it out before our Heavenly Father. Then we hear of a horrific battle being fought by another and we push all our stuff back into the box where we keep those hurts we don’t share with others. We paint a fake smile on our face and keep on going. Is that what God wants us to do or is it what He expects from us?

I think perhaps we have a true, two-sided coin. When we are facing a challenge, it can be an encouragement to us to see how others have battled and won. We can also put our own in a better perspective and it helps us be grateful for our blessings. Both of those are positive and can help us meet our own challenge with a renewed vigor, a fresh outlook and a deeper faith.

Pushing your own feelings back in the box and painting on a face, with an everything is Okay kind of look is what I call the ‘Sunday morning smile.’ We have all seen it and we have all done it. If you are a churchgoing, worship-gathering kind of person, it happens in those quick passes in the hallway with the ‘good morning’ greetings and ‘how ya’ doing’ questions. It is easier to just smile and say, ‘I’m better than a mosquito in a blood bank’ than to look them in the eye and say, ‘I’m having a tough week and could use some prayer.’

If we use a biblical lens to look at the idea of whether we should stuff our problems away because they are small compared to someone else’s, what do we see?

Peter writes, “Cast all your anxiety on him (God) for he cares for you.” Notice the words… anxiety, your worries and struggles and the adjective ‘all’. Peter does not say, ‘Cast all the care you have that is important enough for God to consider’ or ‘all your care that is greater than everyone else’s care’, he writes all.[i]

Matthew writes, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So, don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”[ii]

It appears to be about balance. We need to be encouraged by other’s victories and we need to be mindful we have much for which to be grateful. Gloomy-Gus Christians who can only moan about the burden of life without seeing any positives, feeling any grace or recognizing blessings need to spend some time in introspective prayer and Bible reading. Unbelievers who look toward Christ to bring them from the brink of despair and meet only the Christian so wrapped in their own misery will not find hope in such hopelessness.

Worse, though, are those who feel an obligation to not let anyone know they are struggling. Whether it is pride or their false persona of SUPER CHRISTIAN that keeps them silent, they are in for a rude awakening. For them, a Christian faces every storm and never has a moment of struggle or grief. Anyone who believes a real Christian must not worry and bottles up everything inside, is on a collision course with reality, is going to get hit hard and there is always collateral damage.

I knew such a man. (Spoiler Alert – if you are of delicate sensibilities, you may want to skip this paragraph) He kept up the persona of a great husband and father, community leader, business elite, everything neatly packed in his calf-skin briefcase and his never off-the-rack suits. One day I stood next to him, still in his expensive suit now soaked through with blood. His calf-skin briefcase had fallen open, the contents carried by the wind through the woods where he had walked before sitting at the base of a tree and eating the business end of his shotgun. Not a very pretty picture, is it? No one seemed to have any clue there was a problem brewing beneath his well-protected façade. I have no doubt his family would have gladly accepted a father who told them he was struggling and work with him to find help. It would not have made him less of a great dad. Certainly, the option he chose did not do anything to help his family.       

So, what about this feeling I have that it is getting harder to bounce back from each additional surgery and recovery period? Do I face the possibility of another up-coming surgery with dread and a morose attitude? Do I bottle it up and put on my Sunday morning smile because others truly are much worse off than me? Do I step from the nearest phonebooth[iii] in my tight leotards with my flowing cape and the large C on my chest as SUPER CHRISTIAN who can withstand this, declaring, “HAVE NO FEAR SUPER C IS HERE”?

Perhaps, the best tack may be not worrying about tomorrow because, as Matthew writes, “…tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”[iv] There is a good possibility this will be just a bad sprain and I will not even need surgery. If it is a tear, as my mom would have said, be glad the Bible says: ‘It came to pass’ not, it came to stay!

I have an amazing support team! All will be fine. If torn, it is a simple tear and not a life-threatening malady with beau coup complications.

Finally, with every surgery and resulting recovery, God has taught me something about myself and about others. In this too, there shall be a lesson. Will it stink to not be riding my Harley for a while or to have some restrictions on my fishing? Absolutely. I think I can survive.

I should also use this time to be reminded of those facing life-altering medical issues and seek to pray for them, encourage them and be ready to assist should the opportunity present itself.

It is also a great time to count my many blessings and thank my support team for all their awesome love and attention to caring for me even when I am at my most unlovable.


[i] 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

[ii] Matthew 10:29-31 NIV

[iii] Phonebooth a small structure furnished with a payphone and designed for a telephone user’s convenience. (Provided for Millennials and younger!)  

[iv] Matthew 6:34 NIV

The DEAD of NIGHT

The dead of church (as a noun) is witnessing the re-birth of the church as an action verb.

The dead of night is a phrase with which any night worker can relate. As a long-time night shift cop, there was a certain sense of foreboding with the true concept of the dead of night. The stillness of the air, the quiet eerieness that seems to put the astute officer on edge are all part of the deeper meaning wrapped in the dead of night.

Euphemisms are often thought of as a way to smooth over another statement that is too harsh such as downsizing for firing employees. For our purposes here, it is best defined as a literary tool which enables the writer to convey a deeper meaning more than is possible with a simple statement. It is not necessarily negative. Perhaps it brings a picture to mind that helps elaborate on a message, to give the icy chill on the back of the neck to the reader or causes one’s temperature to rise with his heart beat. In any case, there is a definitive image which brings with it a clearer understanding of the writer’s intent.

The dead of winter evokes a special meaning for those of us who despise winter! It holds a different, peaceful, crystal white stillness for those who love it. In either respect, there is something in the phrase which brings out a fuller, deeper, wider grasp of the winter season.

In a seminary class, we read a study in church growth titled, New Life from a Dead Stump. The concept was formed from the picture of a small sprout for a new tree emerging slowly from the apparently dead stump of a fallen, diseased and dead tree. The analogy was the dead stump as the remains of a body of believers, a church which had fallen through sin or some other disease. The tree had been robbed of life. Now after time, a new, fresh life was beginning to grow from the midst of that dead stump.

A new chapter, or at least a long footnote, for world and American history has appeared in the form of COVID 19. It includes shuttered businesses, travel suspended, individuals and families sequestered in their homes while trying to slow the spread of the deadly virus. Week upon week many find the ends of their ropes begin to fray as they struggle with unpaid bills and curtailed income. Children, unable to attend school, find themselves shut inside while weather, particularly in the northern states, precludes much outdoor activity. This has led to a combination of house fever and sibling rash brought on by constant irritation.

Church organizations are finding new ways to fulfill the admonition by the Apostle Paul to not forsake the assembling of themselves together. A unforeseen advantage of this new decentraized concept of worship is the re-discovery for many that church is not the building or the organization, the 501c3, or the pastor and staff; but, the church is the universal body of believers who do assemble for corporate worship, training, teaching, communal prayer and the observation of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper when it is possible to congregate. However, the necessary abondoning of corporate gatherings has pushed the church to function as it was intended. Believers, led by the Spirit, are spreading the Good News of Christ in their daily lives. Living out the Gospel by caring for the sick, feeding the hungry and sharing the message of salvation has breathed life into the dead of church.

The first-century church in Jerusalem had become quite comfortable with their growth and glad times. Persecution forced it to spread new life in every direction as members of the church extended its reach to Judea, Samaria and the untermost parts of the earth.

My family is blessed to be part of a body of believers, a church, that defines its mission as making the most of Jesus to everyone, every day all the time and has developed a de-centralized ministry focus with MC’s (missional communities) which are small groups who gather for worship, Bible study and ministry. Other small groups gather by some other common denominator, all with the focus of living out the Gospel. Even so, the comfort of four walls and a Sunday routine have been replaced by live-streaming worship through social media resources. Every possible part of ministry has taken on new life forms. The dead of church (as a noun) is witnessing the re-birth of the church as an action verb.

For me, at times this mandated time of slowing has been less of a be still and know that I am God and more like an extension of an already long recovery from breaking my leg last October and surgery on the leg in February. Just when I should be ready to fly, my wings got clipped! Still, though, with time to quiet my inner self and count my blessings, I know I am far more blessed than I could ever deserve. I am cherishing the time I get to spend with family and I am learning to be still in the presence of God.

For many who may struggle to heed the be still command, God finds ways to intercede into our storms to calm the seas for us. Satan would like to declare our time in these days, the dead of church. May we take these daysto grow and trust God. Let’s remember well this passage by Paul to the church at Rome:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering  produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:1-5 ESV (Emphasis added)

As I write this it is the Thursday before Good Friday. In my sanctified imagination (a term I’ve borrowed from a seminary professor), I see it now being about the time Jesus and the eleven are headed to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. The Last Supper completed, Judas has gone to sell out the Savior. Jesus speaks of the growth of the branches attached to the true vine even as they ascend the Mount of Olives. I have had the honor of standing in that garden, along the hillside overlooking Jerusalem. I can picture the path they walked. May I never forget what love and devotion it took for my Savior to walk that path. May I never whine about my lot in life; but, rejoice in the grace by which I stand.  

A Story

One bright and sunny summer day, an old man came walking into town. He was a quizzical looking old man with a dusty hat that hung low over his eyes.

All good stories begin with Once Upon a Time, except the best story ever, it begins with “In the beginning…” Well, I can’t match the Bible’s story so, let’s start out with the classic line.

Once upon a time, in a land that would look very much like America today, there was a small town, in a vastly rural area in which some of the richest people in the world lived. They had so much of everything. Whenever what they possessed broke, they just bought new. They could go where they wanted and, pretty much, do as they pleased. They had to obey the laws and pay their taxes, but they were still very much free to do whatever they liked. One thing was certain, they believed that they were never going to have to answer for anything they did which may have been in some way wrong.  They were masters of their fate.

One bright and sunny summer day, an old man came walking into town. He was a quizzical looking old man with a dusty hat that hung low over his eyes. The only thing you could see was long silver grey beard sticking out from under the hat. His hair was the shiniest silver grey anyone had ever seen. It was disheveled but clean and incredible to look at. His flowing beard was of the same lustrous silver grey and the mustache adorning his upper lip nearly covered his mouth completely, each end coming down and laying gently across his beard.

His clothes were certainly unique. He looked something like a cross between Indiana Jones and a motorcycle cop! His wore a tan shirt and jacket, a dark brown leather jacket to be precise. He carried a pouch slung across his shoulder, much in the Indiana Jones style and he carried along a worn backpack, the straps frayed and the canvas worn almost through in a couple of places. His ‘cargo’ style pants were tucked neatly into a pair of knee-high brown boots, the kind you might have seen a turn of the 20th Century motorcycle cop or maybe a ‘dough-boy’ cavalry soldier from WWI wear. He didn’t so much use a cane, as he did carry a stick that was also worn and well-marked from what must have been years of traveling by foot. His right hand gnarled and thick from hard work and long years clutched the crown of the stick that had the appearance of an eagle in flight.

The old man walked to the center of the city, strolling up to a bench in front of the magnificent city hall. There was just enough breeze to catch the flags and slap them against the wind. As he lay his pack on the bench, he took off his hat, running his forearm sleeve across his brow. He sat down with a sigh and began to gaze out across the city hall courtyard of marbled fountains and intricate stone-work patios. A valiant-looking bronze eagle was perched atop a design of the city’s seal which bore on it pictures of industry, farming and business. Yes, it was a fairly grand looking courtyard, the bushes neatly trimmed, the grass watered just enough and manicured so that no weed would dare poke its ugly head up to the sunlight. After a short time, it seemed the man dozed, but a curious thing was happening as people seemed drawn to come look at him. He had said nothing, was offering nothing; yet folks were hearing about him and coming, even from their homes, to stop by and stare at this old gentleman as he reposed upon the bench in the afternoon sun.

As the crowd grew, a hushed murmur was evident across the group, for it seemed no one wanted to disturb the gentleman in the flowing silver-grey hair now taken up residence in their city center. A slight hint of a smile seemed to cross his face, even as his eyes remained closed and his hands rested, crossed on top of the walking stick’s eagle crown. His eyes opened slowly and the smile grew brighter as he looked across at the crowd which had gathered to gawk at this strange sight of a man. And then, he spoke.

How long will you simple people continue to live in your simple ways? His question caught the townspeople off-guard. “What does he mean simple? We have some of the best technology money can buy!” Another remarked, “How dare he call us simple! Haven’t we got a fine university here and so many of our citizens are well-educated!” The old man was silent, looking out; his blue eyes seeming to pierce into the hearts of those who met his gaze.

“How long,” he said quietly, “will those who laugh and scorn others continue their derision and the foolish ones of you hate knowledge?” The townspeople were not sure whether to be angry at the old man or if he was just a simple-minded old man, off his medications and his mouth uttering whatever entered his feeble mind. The old man slowly began to rise from his bench, his right hand firmly grasping the cane for support.

“You should regret what I must say to you and you must turn from your pride and mocking and beg forgiveness to God for not taking time to understand His ways!”

Now the people began to think the old man was mentally off and maybe he could be dangerous! Someone thought the police should be called to control the old man and take him away if necessary. Still he spoke again. “I will be here and I will teach you the right way to live. None of you will listen, though. You will close off your ears and not pay attention to what I try to tell you. I will have no choice but to punish you for the way you are.” His last statement was said with a mixture of emotions. It was at once forceful and commanding and at the same time, so very sad. It was if his heart was breaking to say it.

Some of those standing near, laughed at the old man. Most laughed in a heckling way, while others, had just a bit of nervousness in their laugh. They called out to one another that the old man was mad and should be locked up and then they, too, laughed.

Now standing, his arm outstretched, the cane pointing menacingly at the crowd. “I will laugh,” he said, “when disaster, which I bring upon you, strikes you down and fills you with fear!”

Some of the people now backed away, but none could seem to just leave. They remained drawn to this old man dangerously threatening to strike them. He called out in a strong voice, “When disaster comes and blows away this majestic city and you cry out to me to protect you, I will not answer you.” The old man turned his gaze heavenward, then returning his eyes to the crowd, he declared, “You will search for me but you will not be able to find me.”

It was, as if, the sunny summer afternoon with the light breeze had turned ominous. The sky was now grey and clouds were gathering. The sun was blocked by growing clouds.

The old man looked, with pity, upon the young children standing there. As if to explain, he spoke gently to them. “They would not listen to me. They hated the knowledge I tried to share and they refused to even acknowledge how God has blessed them. Now, they must face what comes to those who do not know, honor and share God. It is their own foolishness that will destroy them.”

The children, unafraid, came closer to the old man as he sank back to the bench, exhausted. Some climbed up and sat next to him but all were staring longingly into his tired eyes. It was as though they hoped for good news from him after such bad.

Gently, the old man placed his hands on the heads of the children closest to him, leaning down, he spoke reassuringly to them. “Whoever listens to me will live safely and never have any fear of harm.” As he spoke, a hint of sunshine broke through the clouds and brightened the bench with its strange occupant and all the children sitting near. The old man slowly rose, slinging his pack onto his back, he started walking away.

“When will these things be? When will the disaster come?” some of the men hollered after the old man as he walked away. He just kept walking. Some of them laughed even more loudly, calling out insults to the old man as he left. Many more stood silent, lost in their thoughts as the figure of the old man faded from sight.

(The preceding was an adaptation of Proverbs 1:20-33)

Reflecting Further

For me, the line in the sand of the Arabian deserts is drawn with two sticks. One stick is the expansion… of Iran’s nuclear capability…The second stick is… in the hands of a young American soldier in the desert with a wife and child back home in the States.

Recently I posted a blog about a Bully… In it I wrote:

 If there are any U.S. veterans or current military personnel out there not completely livid with the actions of this Congress to limit our military’s right to defend itself and our Commander in Chief’s right to exercise that military to protect others and America’s interests,  I have got to hear from you… I look across the Middle East and I have to ask myself, who has allowed this 3rd world upstart of a country to gain such bully status? Although it is the second largest country in the Middle East, it is barely larger in square miles than our single state of Alaska!…

Iran has permitted the likes of the Taliban, ISIS, and al Qaeda while building a nuclear capability allied with North Korea, Russia and China.  

Here is where we find ourselves on 10 January 2020… Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that ballistic missile attacks targeting U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq Wednesday morning were “a slap in the face” to the United States.

IRAN – the BULLY in the neighborhood… Why? Because we are allowing it. The ruling Ayatollah and those loyal to him are killing their own people, jailing those who object and it is morally wrong for those in Congress to hamper the legitimate efforts of our military and its Commander in Chief to do everything it can to protect the lives of American soldiers who are in harm’s way, American citizens and private individuals in Iraq and those in Iran who choose to stand against the ruling regime. The Ayatollah has vowed to pursue nuclear weapons with the only goal of striking against America and Israel. At what point will our Congress wake up rather than be ‘woke’?

And I put in this plea:  Remember the name of each and every Representative and Senator who has voted to keep our military from being able to defend themselves when you go next to the ballot box.

I’ve been giving a great bit of thought to things even as the circus of impeachment continues and members of Congress are so far out of touch with America and its people, it is scary. There is another side of the Iran issue I think needs to be considered. Here are my ruminations on that subject.

So far I have considered the American side of the coin. We, (the royal we including most Western nations), own a good piece of the blame for allowing Iran to be the bully, to have the military, to threaten with nuclear weaponry… Certainly, other western countries can point their finger at America and say it is our fault, and they are partially correct. We have had the most capability to put a stop to it during past administrations and we haven’t. Still, there is enough blame to go around.

HOWEVER, a very large part of the blame (for lack of a better term) lies with the Iranian people. How long are they going to put up with these bullies in black robes? There is a point that lies vaguely out in the cosmos somewhere. It is the place where people either fix what is wrong or they refuse to right the wrongs of the government over them choosing to ignore the abuses of that government. Their non-action, or ineffective action, becomes collusion. No longer can they maintain innocent bystander status, if there even is such a thing in today’s world.

The Christian who is also a patriot to his country walks a fine line. His first allegiance is to Christ, everything else is second. Some Christians take the words of Jesus, “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s” to mark the dichotomy between the two and it is an appropriate line. Others turn to Paul’s remarks in Romans, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same…” They then declare that any action taken against even an evil or oppressive government is wrong and we are to bide our time and let God deal with it.

How do we follow that thinking when faced with demonic rulers such as Adolph Hitler and the bullies we see currently in Iran? To be very open, I don’t know. Remember, when Paul wrote, Romans were killing Christians for sport. The Roman lions were the unbeatable opponent. Allow me to take a line from the United States’ Declaration of Independence.

“…all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.”

The point is made here that people are more likely to continue to permit suffering rather than get rid of the familiar as long as the suffering is tolerable, (more likely that it is on someone else’s front porch and not my own). How much stronger is the desire to not go against the authorities when the authorities claim divine position and to go against them is to assure oneself of hell? This is particularly true when the religion being so used has been inculcated into their very DNA since they were born.

I must choose how to correctly interpret what Paul’s words meant to the people of his day and how that applies to people today. After much soul-searching and prayerful consideration, I determined that if I must err, if it is an error, I choose to stand on the side of protecting those who are unable to protect themselves. When any person, organization, political body, government or military does evil against any person, particularly those most vulnerable, the weak, infirm, the widows and orphans, the children, then I must stand between them and that evil. I believe the weight of the biblical evidence supports such action. I pray and thank God that He continues to have mercy upon me when such decisions must be rendered. I encourage anyone who might read this to determine for yourself where you stand. There will be no time to contemplate it when the time comes. The following poem by Martin Niemoller says it best. It’s titled, First They Came for the Jews.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
Martin Niemöller

The Nazis imposed identification of the Jews

Will there be a time when the people of Iran have heard enough lies and seen enough abuse, felt the crush of unbridled power to that undefinable point and take a stand to demand there be revolution? In a bold move recently, rather than face a possible showdown with the IRGC, (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), Ayatollah Khamenei played a slick card trick. He has moved to declare those who were killed by Iranian forces in the street riots over the past few weeks as martyrs. What does that mean? It means the families of those killed are set financially for life. They have an honored status now in Iran. What better way to quell a rebellion than buying off those responsible for it.

Israel apparently has decided to allow the U.S. to take the lead in actions against Iran. Strategists suggest that as long as the U.S. is pushing back against Iran, Israel will be able to allow the U.S. to take the lead and perhaps ease the threat against itself for a short time. Still others believe it is only a matter of time until Tehran acts against Israel again.

Courtesy STRATFOR

SUMMARY

“So, now what?” In the movie, Big Jake, (you knew it was coming, right?), John Wayne is an absentee father now reconnected with two of his sons to retrieve a kidnapped grandson. Events make the sons believe their father stole the $1M meant as ransom and when they challenge him, he towers over them, hands on his hips and defiantly says, “So, now what?” The sons had a choice to make. Do they challenge or cower?

Does the United States wait for Israel to act? Do we wait and encourage the Iranian people to act? To think that U.S. resources are not currently in place creating incentives for insurrection is to be going about with one’s head in the sand. Will government changes at the top in Moscow make a difference?

Iran has threatened just this week that if the Western countries open the Iranian nuclear file before the U.N. Security Council, they will leave the non-proliferation agreement… Whoopi! As if anyone believed they were following it anyway!

For me, the line in the sand of the Arabian deserts is drawn with two sticks. One stick is the expansion and development of Iran’s nuclear capability. If they approach weaponization, all deals are off and the Iranian people need to know they are in a time crunch for acting in their own best interests. When that line is crossed, there is no doubt there will be collateral damage. Notice, I did not say of innocent bystanders because, at some point, inaction becomes collusion. If nothing else, they should remove themselves from harm’s way for their children’s sake if not their own. The children, sadly, will be at risk because of their parents’ choices.

The second stick is best visualized in the hands of a young American soldier in the desert with a wife and child back home in the States. When he and his brothers are fired upon, the green flag is down, the gate is up and America responds for as many furlongs as it takes.

In every smallest detail, we pray. We pray for peace in the region. We pray for the safety of our troops. We pray for the salvation of every individual in Iran and beyond and we pray for divine guidance for our leaders, particularly for wisdom for our Commander in Chief.

I thank God that He has allowed me to be a citizen of this great nation which I have sworn to defend. I thank Him all the more that He sought me out to be a citizen of His heavenly kingdom and may I never do, say or write anything to tarnish His Name.

“I solemnly swear… I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States… against all enemies foreign and domestic…that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…so help me God.

Perception

Would it be incredible to get rid of dozens of small problems in your daily life? What if you could lose a hundred or more daily problems?

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It is just the beginning of the rush hour and you are needing to be on the far side of the local mall in time for your grandson’s basketball game. The person in front of you must have last driven in heavy traffic a minimum of seventy years ago in places where the speed limits were no more than 40 miles per hour or so it seems. The aggravation boiling up in you along with your high blood pressure is not affecting the driver in front of you one iota. It is all your issue and not his. In actuality, the driver is driving the speed limit, you are just upset he is not driving ten or more miles per hour over the limit like you would be if you could. It is your perception which has colored your interpretation of the difficulty. In fact, there truly is no difficulty; even driving the speed limit, you will arrive in plenty of time for the basketball game.

Would it be incredible to get rid of dozens of small problems in your daily life? What if you could lose a hundred or more daily problems? Okay, let’s imagine you have the capability of eliminating ten thousand temporary problems. Sound like a type of scam or old-time medicine show selling snake oil to cure you of every malady known to man from colon cancer to postnasal drip? Stick with me for just a bit before you abandon the reading, thinking my A-train has slipped off the track and is plummeting down a 1000-foot ravine.

by Luis Duran

I used to have a small sign in my study which read: TWO RULES of a STRESS-FREE LIFE: 1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. 2. It’s all small stuff. Okay, that sounds trite; but, there is more depth there if you scratch at it for a bit.

Text Box: by Luis Duran

Aiden Wilson Tozer, better known as A.W. Tozer, born 1897 and died in 1963, was an American pastor, author of multiple books, and editor of a Christian magazine. He is known for his depth of thought, clear understanding of scripture and his ability to share those cumulative thoughts on theology with the general public in a way the wisdom was well understood by his readers.

Referring to A.W. Tozer, Dr. Ron J. Bigalke[i] writes, “The majority of a person’s difficulties in life are not circumstantial; rather, they are perceptual.” Bigalke quotes Tozer’s writing in The Knowledge of the Holy. “A person’s faulty concept of God ‘is the cause of a hundred lesser evils.’ However, the one who believes in God as He truly is will be ‘relieved of ten thousand temporary problems.’” There you have it! The equation for ridding yourself of thousands of temporary problems can be showed as:

                A = A faulty concept of God        

                B = Life  

                Cx = Temporary Problems

A + B = Cx  

The equation indicates that a faulty concept of God plus life results in temporary problems exponentially multiplied.  

To reverse the process, more than just subtracting A, add to the equation the inverse of A or 1/A so that:

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(A-A) + 1/A + B = C0or the elimination of a faulty concept of God plus a proper understanding of God plus life results in temporary problems to the power of zero, or nil. A caveat is in order. As my children were growing and needing help with homework (and now the same for my grandchildren), if their questions involved history, government or language arts, they came to me. If their questions involved the sciences or mathematics, they went (and still go) to their mother. That I have included a mathematical equation to better express a concept, do not expect it to be a new revelation in complex calculus. Had it not been for a friendly high school senior who sat next to me, a lowly freshman in Algebra 1 back in 1971, I would probably still be in that class!

Jesus, quoted by John in John 16:33, said that we would have trouble in this world; but, He had overcome the world and because of that, we can have peace.

Let’s return to the statement by Tozer. The person who believes in God as He truly is “will be relieved of ten-thousand temporary problems.” Can Tozer make such a statement and back it up scripturally or is it simply a panacea? It makes us think of bumper sticker theology which can be all warm and fuzzy but it really isn’t theologically sound. It sounds too good to be true, getting rid of ten-thousand temporary problems.

There are many scriptures which declare the omnipotence of God such as Psalm 24:1-2.

The King of Glory and His Kingdom

A Psalm of David.

24The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the [a]waters.

1/A is having a proper understanding of God. Psalm 24 shows us the magnificence and supreme authority of the divine God.

There was a Christian children’s program several years ago which had some great theology in its music. The following is a line from one of their songs:

“God is bigger than the boogie man. He’s bigger than Godzilla, or the monsters on TV.

Oh, God is bigger than the boogie man. And He’s watching out for you and me.”[ii]

De-escalating the effects our problems have on our lives is to grasp they are temporary. Just as life itself is short, so are the problems we face during it. The biblical author James provides a handle.

James 14:13

13 Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow [h]we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit;’ whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”(NKJV)

Bigalke writes that the Bible “reminds one that even the worst problem is only temporary; yet God is eternal and His glory is what endures forever.” What begins to be clear is that understanding the divinity of God and His eternal nature is critical to our perception of our problems as they compare to God’s power. Remember the quote on page 1? Let’s finish Bigalke’s thought. Bigalke writes, “The majority of a person’s difficulties in life are not circumstantial; rather, they are perceptual. Humanities greatest problems are the result of an inadequate understanding of who God is.” (emphasis added)

Go back to your drive to your grandson’s basketball game. All of the problems you had with the driver in front of you were because of your perception not your circumstances. It was not that you were actually going to be late. It was not that the driver in front of you was going slower than the speed limit. Your mis-perception of the time it takes you to get to the game and your perception of the driver’s speed were the cause of your aggravation.

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If we understand every single trial or adversity which we are undergoing is temporary, it will change our view of each problem. Imagine a person in a gulag for his faith, with no expectation he will ever be released. If he can truly grasp the situation, even if life-long is only temporary as compared to eternity, it will change his view of the circumstances of his life. None of us are very likely to face a life-sentence to a gulag; but, perhaps our circumstances are horrific in human terms. How can knowing those horrific circumstances are only temporary and heaven is our eternity change how we deal with them?

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How does truly understanding God’s power and divinity help us face circumstances which are not likely to change in any short period of time? Can we not just place those circumstances in God’s hands and ask Him to deal with it on a daily basis? Our hearts are hurting and breaking over a loved one’s pain. Can we help both ourselves and our loved one by re-focusing our perception of God’s divine power over our circumstances? I believe it will help everyone involved.  

A.W. Tozer wrote, “I take refuge in the fact that although I don’t know everything, I do know someone who does.”


[i] Bigalke, Dr. Ron J., Midnight Call magazine, The Work of Christ: Messianic Psalms, Dec. 2019

[ii] Veggie Tales, TandVTV, 1993 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKWmmj0Cs-U

BOOTS ON

This is a lesson in coping, not fixing. Fixing is for God to do. He will help us cope until He does fix things.

Strategies for Coping When You desire to Serve but Cannot

Not long after my fall and the subsequent fracture of my fibula, a friend, who is also an aficionado of wearing western (cowboy) boots as an everyday and only shoe, took me to task for not having my boots on! And right he is! Had I been wearing any of my pairs of trusted boots, I most likely would not have slipped on the wet grass and fallen.

Most of us know the term ‘died with his boots on.’ It is a way of relating how someone kept doing the work they knew to do right up until the Lord called them home. The fellow who ‘dies with his boots on’ is content with life. He always perceived himself useful and respected for his work.

In the great movie “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” Jimmy Stewart plays Ransom Stoddard in competition with John Wayne as Tom Donophan  for a lovely young woman’s affection. Until Stoddard, a tender-foot new lawyer shows up in the small old-west town, Donophan is the big man, well liked and respected. They vie for the love of Hallie (Vera Miles). Because Stoddard believes in the rule of law not violence, he is forced to face Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) in a show-down. It’s a lopsided duel with Stoddard not sure from which end of the gun the bullet comes out. Stoddard is certain to be killed.  Donophan shoots Valance from the shadows making everyone believe Stoddard was the victor. He won not only Hallie, but a lifetime as Senator in Congress.

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Donophan believed he was without a purpose in life. He existed in self-imposed isolation.

THE LESSON: Don’t believe everything you tell yourself.

Returning for Donophan’s funeral, Ransom and Hallie found him to be a forgotten man, destined for a pauper’s grave. Ransom looks in the coffin and sees Donophan doesn’t have his boots on. The undertaker argues ‘they were almost brand new, almost never worn.’ Ransom demands Donophan’s boots be put back on him.  About to be buried without his boots, Donophan is the image of a man who died believing he had no purpose, useless. Stoddard shared the whole story with the newspaper reporters and they threw it away. An iconic line of the movie is the editor’s response to Stoddard’s request. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

I’ve always worn boots, since my Air Force days and then as a cop. Off-duty it was western boots and they remain my favorite of all shoes. I have probably gone through countless pairs over the years. Most of them eventually became useless, worn out and not good for anything unless you wanted to make a flower garden decoration out of them! Many of them are still lying about in a closet or a hallway. I just can’t get myself to throw them in the trash. Some, sure. Most, I just can’t. Those old boots are retired, their initial job finished.

Because those boots are inanimate objects, they feel no despair over becoming retired and even unusable. In today’s society, however, trauma and stress affect individuals from feelings of a life mission not completed to being pushed away by younger men or women. Some may believe they can do it better and have no need of an older person’s input. The same is true for believers who agonize over ministry unaccomplished because age, infirmity, or simply discrimination have blocked paths for many of these folks. Some studies show over 70 percent of pastors report depression over such stress. (www.charismanews.com) What are some of the causes of our pain over retirement or simply being shut out of a ministry? How can individuals learn to cope?

This is a lesson in coping, not fixing. Fixing is for God to do. He will help us cope until He does fix things.

There are a great many people who find retirement particularly difficult. If their profession was one in which they took a great deal of appropriate pride and it remains part of who they are, then separating from it is not easy. A study by the National Institutes of Health show suicide rates for career police officers are statistically higher for police within five years of retirement suggesting a correlation between suicide decisions and depression based on pending retirement. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) As a retiree, it is important to fight the empathy one feels toward those old boots; to feel like you’re just lying around the closet. Find ways to cope.

Grandkids are a great remedy for such malaise!  Some say they keep you young. I say they keep you alive! In family, the retiree is still needed and, if your family is like mine, you best keep those boots on because you could be rolling out anytime for something   critically important in the moment.

THE LESSON: Family is a great way to make sure you keep your boots on.

If there were western style boots in the first century, no doubt Paul and Timothy would be wearing them or a reasonable facsimile thereof! They were ready for anything at any time. First-responders in first century ministry, Paul and Timothy were the template for today. Remain in ministry, in whatever way it is defined for you, until the Lord calls you home. Even if debilitated, there is still some ministry function; becoming a prayer warrior is one example, through which God will use you.

THE LESSON: Be always ready to do whatever the Lord calls you to do.

There may be those who find no place for your work in a ministry they oversee. This is one of the most difficult hits to take. Even though you are not aware of any trouble between you and the person or a ministry team, to be disregarded is never pleasant. If the doors are closed to you within a group where you desired to work; this can become a serious struggle. As disheartening as it might be; hold true to what you know. Paul wrote to Timothy and advised him to let no-one criticize him for his youth. The reverse can be true. Pray for all those involved in ministry no matter their actions or attitudes toward you. Give grace.

THE LESSON: Be ready in all seasons to give an account for the hope that is within you.

A story is told in Ukraine about why the crosses on Ukrainian believers’ graves are at the feet of the deceased’s plots and not the heads, which may  have a small identifying marker. A reference is made to Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:24. He instructed His followers to ‘take up their cross and follow Him’. The belief is that on that day when the dead in Christ are raised with immortal bodies, as they step out of their graves, they will be able to reach down and pull up their cross and follow Him. I have no authoritative source for the story; but it does provide a good analogy for how prepared we are to be… always ready to follow Christ along whatever path He is directing us.

Retirement from a job or profession can be a wonderful new chapter in life. Ministry is not a job description. It is what happens when people who love God allow themselves to be His hands and feet. Everything we do can be ministry if we do it with the right heart. For too long Christians have left Ministry (capital M) to the “professionals.” Today, there is a greater awareness of the intimate connection between loving God and doing what He asks.  If you have made yourself available and then were overlooked, ask God to help you understand His plans and to accept by faith what you cannot understand through reasoning.

The last LESSON for ministry in retirement…

Work when you can, advise only when you’re asked, pray unceasingly and

                                                                                                              keep your boots on!

SPACE EXPLORATION – Sinful?

Can you bind the chains of the Pleaides, or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, and guide the Bear with her satellites? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens or fix their rule over the earth?”

Recently, I felt compelled to pen a letter to the editor of a Christian magazine after an article on India’s space exploration program. The letter is re-printed here for your consideration in part due to a conversation I had with a brother-in-Christ just this morning. We spoke of enjoying and encouraging the imagination of our young children and grandchildren. We reminded each other of times spent as children ourselves staring at a sky with white puffy clouds and calling out what animal or other images we saw the clouds forming. It is an amazing joy I share with my grandchildren as we sway lazily on our hammock under the shade of a sprawling oak tree. Imagining ourselves in the clouds ourselves must be on the mind of many future space explorers! With that in mind, I wrote the following to Mr. Arno Froese.

Rev. Ross L. Riggs, D Min

Arno Froese, Executive Editor The Midnight Call P.O. Box 84309 Lexington, SC 29073

Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I write to say how much I enjoy Midnight Call and to beg a question of you from the September 2019 Issue, under World Focus “Moon Landing”. You pose a question as to the purpose for India to be so involved in space exploration and putting a rover on the moon. You answer your question with, as you say, “one word: pride.” For those who set themselves a nest among the stars, Obadiah declares the Lord, those shall be brought down. Still, I could not settle myself on the idea of condemning the Indian exploration as sin, i.e. pride and leaving it go at that. I think of God who is the Creator magnificent who takes great joy in His creation, all of it, man, animals, earth and space. God, in putting Job into a correct understanding of God’s greatness, asks, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleaides, or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, and guide the Bear with her satellites? Do you know the ordinances of the heavens or fix their rule over the earth?” (Job 38)

I believe God is quite pleased with his heavenly creation and given proper attitude of His human creation, He would welcome and has blessed our exploration of it. God proclaims in Genesis 1:14 of the heavens which sepearate the day and the night, “let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years.” Men of Issachar could watch the heavens and thus understood the times (1 Chron.12

Can we begin to know, even in these last days what wondrous discoveries that might lead to cures of human maladies, stop the suffering of children or feed more poor than gleaning will be spun from a laboratory’s accelerator after exploration of space? More importantly, can we know another man’s heart? Can or should we ascribe guilt of sin to everyone attached to a nation’s space exploration program?

When considering the purposes of space exploration, we should also mention, the very real threats now looming like the Sword of Damacles across the globe for any maleficently minded country leader to shock our world with electronic pulses. Must we not know and have a command of space to stop such threats? I venture to say there are many noble purposes for space exploration. Although pride may be the Achille’s heel for some within such programs, still let us ask God to bless such work for learning more about our Creator and His creation as well as what boon to mankind it might bring.

I am reminded of the poem by Jahn Gillespie Magee Jr., the last lines which read, “while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod, the high untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand, and touched the face of God.” President Regan quoted this poem after the Shuttle disaster many years ago. When it comes to space exploration, the heavens are a creation which reveals the very nature of our God. We should relish every touch we can have with it.

Respectfully,

Dr. Ross Riggs  

Front Steps and Back Patios

t may be a pity too few may read this post for, even though many seem driven to cast a pall over America’s horizon and bemoan how Americans will never be what they once were, there is a brighter hope I see emanating from the shadows cast by all the nay say-ers

                    InSCIghts is one of a half-dozen titles under which this author writes some basic and other more detailed and complex concepts of law enforcement relations with their communities. Sadly, it is also one which has been bereft of any serious works of late. In thinking about why and trying to explain it to my son, I made the comment, ‘life happened’ but such has more in common with an excuse than an explanation. In hopes of filling the void on my web’s blog sites and reviving what once was a plethora of article submissions – to which several quality magazine editors would let out a long sigh when they saw the familiar SCI logo in their ‘in-box’ – I take pen and paper in hand and begin to swipe at the cobwebs of my mind and see what awakens! Okay, so I use a laptop and mouse not pen and paper and most of the cobwebs which have begun to take over my ‘attic’ are too entrenched to go with just a swipe. It is going to take a shop-vac on full suction to get those bad-boys out of the corners!

                    It is a combination of the ‘Patriot Day’ just passed which brought with it friends lamenting how communities and neighbors were so much closer in the weeks following 9-11 and the simple realization that students now high school seniors, to graduate in the Spring of 2020, were not yet born in 2001. They cannot share the common experience of Americans from that fateful day; nor can any of their classmates who come after them. These thoughts began to stir in me a desire to write. I realize when I pen an article or blog, there may be only a handful of people taking the time to read it. But, that’s okay. Writing is cathartic for me and if, by chance, it does some smattering of good for someone who is inclined to read it; all the better.

                     It may be a pity too few may read this post for, even though many seem driven to cast a pall over America’s horizon and bemoan how Americans will never be what they once were, there is a brighter hope I see emanating from the shadows cast by all the nay say-ers. What began as a faint glow and then was just an unsteady glimmer has begun to brighten and is overcoming the darkness one front porch at a time, or perhaps a back deck; maybe one kitchen at a time or within the family rooms of people who share a common bond. 

                    When traveling abroad for many years; Karin and I were taken by how a sense of community existed in a bond between people of the town and it seemed founded upon the small groups which would appear like magic on front steps or back patios, even along fence rows, as men and women, their work done for the day did not retreat  behind closed doors, shuttered windows and loud televisions. Instead in what were some of the  most financially destitute villages, we enjoyed these visits; when the evening light was fading and the one or two streetlights would crackle and buzz until the dim light within came on, brightening and lessening as the available amount of electrical current along the line would fluctuate and neighbors sought out neighbors to do nothing more than share time. In a world driven by money and possessions, those with the most of each seem to have less time than those who could not afford a cellphone, even if service was available. These folks were rich because of the way they valued and used their time.

                    The people who graciously gave us of their time and allowed us to share ours, in these far-flung villages were Christ followers. Not Christians because their names were dutifully entered into a ledger of some national church at their birth but people who had found the richness of the grace of God irresistible and they had given in, fully and completely plunging themselves into the love of Christ and learning what it meant to live in a community of believers. The New Testament has a name for such communities of believers, they are called the church.

                    What I am finding refreshing and the provider of hope for America, is these ‘old-world’ ways – the appreciation of time, the enjoyment of being involved in an event for the event’s sake and not for what each may get out of the event as another notch on their social status belt or recognition of their worldly wisdom. Men and women of America, more and more, are re-learning the joys of being. They are enjoying being together, being involved in others lives, being accepted and even needed – not for some thing they offer to the group but needed to just be part of the group. Those who seem to be succeeding at this new adventure seem as if they are living in an older, simpler time. Likely it was not truly simpler – maybe – just less complex, but not simpler. What I mean by that is; those who lives were less complex back in my parent’s and grandparent’s days were still not simple lives. There was pain and hurt, financial troubles, World Wars and much more. Still, their lives were less complex. They took time to have time and to share time with others. Family time was held sacrosanct. You did not find an excuse to miss family time, no matter how, as a teenager one might believe family time to be lame; or as a young adult might have too much work or something else as a priority, there was no excuse for missing family time.

                    There is, thankfully, an extension of family time. People, some related by DNA matches but many more who are together, making time, sharing time, enjoying time in simpler ways on front steps and back patios, even over fence rows and no one is looking to see what time it is or how late it is getting. These people begin to grow together and learn to care for one another building into one another’s lives. It all happens because they are blood relatives. All are saved by the precious blood of Jesus. They are Christ followers, not perfect people, hopefully not legalistic people or judgmental but similarly they have come from a past of yuckiness and brown stuff and found how Christ can forgive and forget and He loves them all the same, anyway. These followers of the Yeshuah are laughing and loving; learning and praying; hurting and crying; living and thriving – enjoying time together. Seldom is the television on (unless its football season – there can be a little leeway here – and it doesn’t matter because you would not be able to hear it over the talking and laughter anyway. Sometimes when they gather, they study their Bible or discuss ways to cope. No matter the mix – within it is hope. They are communities of believers in Jesus Christ who love one another and love getting together – the New Testament called it the church.

                    Is it perfect and without problems? Nope. But, there’s hope.

                    In this group, when it is believers who are mostly American citizens, there can be a range of political beliefs but politics which divide are not part of the ingredients of these groups. What is incredible is how these groups can become the strongest fiber, the most level foundation, the walls of support for a nation such as ours who desperately needs to know Jesus. These men, women, both young and older people of prayer will be what holds the American experiment together – not just because America is exceptional but also because these Americans are exceptional. What makes them exceptional? The God who made them. Their faith and trust in Him will hold them while the ship of state rocks on heavy seas.

                    If there was ever a time in America’s history when people of faith needed to be strongly united in being Behind the Line – the Thin Blue Line – it’s now. Together, prayerfully asking for God’s blessing and faithfully following His lead; Americans can overcome all of the dark forces which are vying for America’s lifeblood. Behind the Line – that is where I want to be – yet at the same time, Christ has asked His believers to be on the front line and it is possible be both. Christ is who He says He is, and He will do what He has said He will do. In the in-between time; when the day’s work is done and the streetlights falter, then flicker on; its good to get together and spend the most valuable resource you have in life – time, and it’s better when you spend it together.

“UNATTENDED BAG!” Surviving the Terror of an Active Shooter

The ONLY person who is absolutely, positively, guaranteed to be with you when danger threatens is YOU. You must prepare yourself to be Situationally Aware, Mentally Ready to Act, and Know Your Options.

“The world is a dangerous place. ‘Although there is danger in the world, one does not have to become resigned to fate and passively wait for acts of violence to occur. There are some simple steps ordinary people can take to help them avoid danger – or at least to mitigate its impact.’”[i] Those simple steps begin the process, or better, the lifestyle called SITUATIONAL AWARENESS.

Knowing what is going on around you is the basic premise. Seeing a man wearing a black mask,  body armor, hearing protection and carrying an AR-15 rifle walking into the patio area of your millennial packed bar on a busy street, in Dayton Ohio, is a clue things are about to get ugly. Such was the scenario on August 3, 2019, just about 24 hours before I am writing this blog. In an  El Paso, Texas Walmart, a man wearing all black comes in carrying a long rifle. It is time to act. Situational awareness gives you the advantage, the few extra seconds someone, whose face is buried in their Smart Phone, will not have. Those few seconds can save your life…. IF.

 I intend to answer the IF, but first, there needs to be a true understanding of situational awareness, what constitutes a threat and what it means to be prepared for an event. The third is the first piece of the IF answer.

When I was first asked if there would be a blog about this weekend’s horrific shootings, my intention was to speak to one of the causal elements for why people go out with the purpose of killing as many other human beings as possible, usually people whom they have never met. Most of the answer to this question is dealt with in my book in sections titled, The Battle for Our Homes, Keeping the Faith, Retaking the Castle and Keeping the Drawbridge Up. Please, take advantage of not just what I write here, but go to our website and order the book. It’s a cheap investment which just might save your life or the lives of your family. The link is simply, www.security-consulting.us and from there you can order the book, “Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat.”

My intent is to give  you the basic information you need to survive an Active Shooter terror. First, a very short video which will clearly show you, between two cowboys in a cantina, one who is aware of his surroundings and one who is not. You can guess which one is about to die. Go to: https://youtu.be/czb2xfmmJDM

Assuming you viewed the video, provided with SCI’s great thanks to TCM Classic Movies, the clip from El Dorado, you have the basic concept. If the man about to be killed had seen James Caan circling him, he would have had a few extra seconds to act. I’ll give you a spoiler alert, bad cowboy never gets to finish the cigarette he was so intent on rolling. Notice, even the cowboy who watched Caan circle the table did not perceive there was a threat requiring him to act. He read Caan (and, likely, he’d read the script too) and could see Caan’s focus, although worrisome was not on him and, something that was not noticeable in the clip, Caan is not wearing a gun. Our alert cowboy had little reason to act. He was aware enough, however, to act if the need arose. Such speaks to our second point. The question is: “What constitutes a threat?”

Being situationally aware is not limited to seeing the bad guy come in. It is knowing, wherever you are, bar, movie theater or church, where the exits are, where the choke points are, and what your options are. Staying aware of these things, you can gain extra seconds when you can recognize the threat.

The two instances this weekend, El Paso in the Walmart and Dayton at the nightclub patio are obvious threats. The minute they are seen, it is time to act. Not all threats are as obvious. There are a great many profiles on active shooters. The current FBI director was quoted as saying currently, most active shooters in the U.S. are young white males and are often linked to a white supremacy belief system, whether formally or personally.

A couple of years ago, the focus was more on Middle Eastern males with the intent of jihad related attacks. Such profiles can be useful, but not particularly tangible for the average American shopping in their local Walmart, enjoying a drink at a local nightclub or parking in a busy parking garage before a large sports event. You must try to articulate what is setting off your spider senses. We all have them, though not spider bite incurred. We have a God-given ability to sense danger if we tune ourselves into our brain’s proper frequency.

The person who looks so intently focused on where they are going, moving deliberately as if on a mission; unable to make eye contact they seem almost under a spell, for lack of a better term. Those should be watched carefully and, as is always taught in police training, watch their hands. Are their hands visible and what, if anything are they holding? Are their hands hidden? What are they wearing… a long coat in the summer? Something which appears to be body armor? If it is someone you know, have they been  articulating dangerous comments on social media? It isn’t a one answer for the total picture, but more like a puzzle, the pieces you put together as you watch the individual. Is there an air of despondency or virulent anger? Put all your observations together in a very quick analysis and prepare yourself, if your internal alarm starts going off, to act.

A recent shooting incident in our small town of Louisville, Ohio began when a person, known by his wife to be violent and capable of assault threatened to shoot her and others. She knew his violent record and how he previously had guns taken from him because of domestic violence. Since he got the firearms back from the court, he was stockpiling large amounts of ammunition and putting them in large capacity magazines long before the shooting incident occurred. She saw the danger signs but waited until he began firing to notify authorities. Two police officers were pinned down behind bullet riddled police cars, a large number of neighboring houses and vehicles were shot. Hundreds of rounds were fired before SWAT was able to secure an arrest. One person was wounded from other than a bullet round but there were no other casualties. The threat escalated over time, as most do, and those who are in such a scenario need to talk to authorities long before the body count begins. Those who could be impacted by a threat must be prepared to act.

While training in Israel with persons from the IDF, we were taught the simple action known to all those regular residents of Israel, particularly in the cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Following many episodes of bombings, the practice of yelling “UNATTENDED BAG” while in public and seeing a package or bag which had no one with it. The people within earshot of the alert will scatter, quickly in every direction.

IF

If you have prepared yourself mentally to act when a threat presents itself, those few seconds can save your life and the lives of those with you. Why is it necessary to mentally prepare? Your first instinct when seeing a threat is to not believe what you are seeing. This cannot be happening here! This can’t be happening to me! You must quickly accept the reality of danger.

If you have opted to carry a firearm, whether it is open carry or concealed, you must be mentally prepared to act. One can say, ‘I have no doubt, I’ll waste the sucker!’  When it comes time to pull the trigger and end another human’s life, you must be reconciled to the fact you are protecting countless others and doing the only thing possible at that moment.

If the use of a firearm is not an option, then PLEASE understand the concept of Run, Hide, Fight. A short video put together by the City of Houston a few years does a great job of explaining it. . You can view this video on our website at: https://www.security-consulting.us/resources

The ONLY person who is absolutely, positively, guaranteed to be with you when danger threatens is YOU. You must prepare yourself to be Situationally Aware, Mentally Ready to Act, and Know Your Options.

May God bless you and may you use all your faculties God has given you to stay safe and keep those around you safe as well.


[i] Riggs, Dr. Ross L., Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat, Motivational Press, 2017

(Dr. Ross L. Riggs is a retired Chief of Police, a lifetime Certified Law Enforcement Executive, a graduate of the FBI National Academy and owner and president of Security Consulting Investigations, LLC. He is the author of the book Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat and numerous published articles on police tactics and security. Dr. Riggs spent over fifteen years consulting to mission teams in difficult places around the world and has appeared on radio and television programs in relation to his work and doctoral dissertation on developing contingency plans for mission groups and agencies. He may be reached through SCI at 1-888-719-5636 or 1-330-956-9561.)