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

             

The Loss of One

When an officer is killed in the line of duty, the Thin Blue Line becomes, at once, thinner and still stronger.

Who has not suffered loss? Who has not, in quiet of those moments as the soul awakens at the dawn of a new day, sought to understand the questions of why? In searching to understand the nature of loss, I find that those who have written before me seem to be focused on the how and why and not the more important questions of why not and what’s next? Certainly, there are those who have penned volumes on how to overcome grief, to move on in life; but, that is not my meaning.

The question of what is next, when we face the loss of one so dear to us, is not one of, how do I cope with life without my loved one; nor is it, what comes next for the soul who has ceased to walk his earthbound road. For the Christ-follower, those questions have been answered through the lives of those before us and in the sacred pages of Scripture. The sure and certain hope of a resurrection to new life answers the latter and the former is clearly understood by our desire of the heart to serve the Lord no matter what station of life He has allowed for us. Our direction for the way in which we should go and the strength by which to travel that road are found in the Apostle’s words, ‘This life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.’ Strength of resolve, strength of faith is given to us by God’s Holy Spirit as we have both the need for it and the vessel within which to carry it. One of our purposes before such a crisis is to grow closer to Christ so that He may form us into just such a vessel.

I have also found in my years of observing our human condition that intertwined with our spirituality is that a true sense of immortality is present in each of us. We know, even though we may not understand, that our being realizes that we are meant to live forever and that there is only but the changing of one form, destructible, for another, the immortal. Even the most secular of minds seems to realize that even as his body has aged, the person that he is, inside, is the same as when he was decades younger. Though certainly wiser, we hope and matured. One author wrote that, as we age that which we express as virtue is more related to a lack of energy than a strength of will. Still, we move forward in the ever-diminishing race of time and, as we go, we find that with each loss of some part of ourselves there is a corresponding increase in another for which we had little awareness previously. The loss of the ability to move any great distance is replaced by an appreciation for those things close at hand. It is with this line of thinking stirring inside of me that I pause to consider the loss of yet another law enforcement officer at the hands of a felon.

The Thin Blue Line stands as a symbol of the impervious nature of our commitment to keep anarchy from reaching the civilization, seen in the microcosm of our homes and neighborhoods, our communities and towns that we so dearly love; more for the people who are in them than for the brick and mortar of which they are made. When an officer is killed in the line of duty; the Thin Blue Line becomes, at once, thinner and still stronger. The loss of one may be but a ripple in the thousands who bear the badge of authority daily to keep The Line strong here in America; yet, still that ripple will reach every single member of that army of knights sworn to do battle for the king. Not only the knights, but each of their respective families. There is a true sense of there but by the grace of God go I. None are immune to the possibility that each day that shift may be their own EOW (End of Watch) so every single death is felt by the thousands.

One would think that such thoughts would have a debilitating effect upon the forces of good who seek to restrain evil that raises its repulsive head. Like the nemeses of ancient times, the Hydra – as each vile head was cut off, another grew in its place; the strength of the Thin Blue Line seems to react to the loss of even a single officer by becoming even more resilient. If human characteristics can be given to an image like The Line, its determination grows with each strike against it. Any attempt to breach The Line by an assault against one of its own can be the precursor for its growth in its ability to endure and its resolve to never fail. Perhaps those human characteristics that we confer to The Line are merely reflections of those characteristics of the men and women and the families that make up that very real personality that we respectfully call the Thin Blue Line. It is humbly, then, that we come before God and ask that He continue to bless all who stand The Line; that He would protect the warriors as they seek to battle the forces of evil who seek to destroy. For we know, just as we sense our own immortality; that this battle is not ours; but His, and that He has already won the ultimate victory. We know, too, that our job is to stand strong in His strength and to be girded with the armor that the Apostle Paul described in Ephesians chapter 6; the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the sandals of the Good News of the Gospel of Peace, the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit.

Perhaps the resilience of the Thin Blue Line comes from the blessings each member of The Line receives from God. For as Paul writes in the same passage in Ephesians, “For our struggle 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.” 1 Certainly the death of one of our own diminishes us all, in some regard; but, it also brings us back to the source of our strength. Our strength can be renewed and we then can fly upon eagles’ wings.

UNPINNED REVISITED

Sometime back I began a post that I titled, ‘Unpinned’. It was a reference to those of us who have retired from law enforcement. I realized this evening that I never finished that post. Allow me to begin again. Here are the first lines from the long ago post that never posted…

I have been connected, as most of you that have been following my writing for any period of time know, for several decades with law enforcement. It has been very difficult to ever see myself as ever truly separated from it. I have written, in times past, under the blog title of “Unpinned” which carried the picture of a badge with the pin open. My argument is that for those of us who are retired, the badge may be unpinned but it is never gone. You hear, at times, that there is no such thing as an ex-Marine and I think, for those who truly bleed blue as a life-long law enforcement officer, it is as true. That can have positive and negative consequences and it remains always for those who have such a dedication to their given profession, (many of us would use the term calling), to keep in a healthy balance family life and the job.

Even as I write this, my son is on patrol on midnight shift for the department from which I retired as Chief. I see, in him and in the comradery he has with the other cops (as well as some of the frustrations that come) quite a bit of myself so many years ago. However, he is going into the crucible of public police work in a much different era than I. When I began, America was just post-Vietnam. I was one of the last to enter the military during the time designated, the Vietnam Era. There was plenty of social unrest; but, it was mostly name calling and rock throwing. Today, it is assassinations from snipers at multiple locations without mercy.

Most of the retired – unpinned – cops I know still carry their credentials and with thanks to the H.W. Bush Administration, their firearms under the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act. We maintain our regular qualification at the same standards of officers working the streets. The retirees I know would stop to help an officer in trouble without a second thought for their own safety. Some might say that such retirees are not just unpinned, they’re unhinged! That may be more true than we want to admit! The inexplicable bond that comes from such a shared experience of law enforcement cannot be severed by time, age or distance. Many retirees may have angst toward the system which they left; but, never would they permit a brother officer to stand alone if they were in any way capable of standing with them… and when I use the term brother that is neutral to sex and determined only by the blue blood that courses through the veins.

This is a time when such a brotherhood must band together. At the same time, it must not erect a fortress wall against every citizen because there are armies of citizens who support that for which cops stand and are prepared to link arm-in-arm with them to keep the thin blue line resilient and strong. In my upcoming book, I use the term stretching the thin blue line for the way in which supportive citizens and the blue officers can stand as a force against evil and defy those who would seek to terrorize our homes.

Our local church now has a hired off-duty law enforcement officer at each service. Men of the church have dedicated themselves to meet with whichever officer happens to have the duty and before the day begins to pray with him. They pray for his safety, for the church, for his family and the community. Not once has the offer to pray been declined; but, every time it has been appreciated.

A local Christian university has just begun a four-year degree program in criminal justice. There is no better time for men and women studying to enter law enforcement or to improve their knowledge while in the career to receive such training from a faith-based, biblical standpoint. If you have never questioned and studied why you believe what you believe, you will believe anything. A bumper sticker bit of wisdom says that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything! An unexamined faith will never grow and the days in which police officers are now doing battle with the forces of evil requires a vibrant and burgeoning faith. Such a faith does not recoil for political correctness and as the Apostle Paul admonished, it does not grow weary in doing good.

If ever there was a time of vibrant opportunity for seasoned and retired law enforcement officers, who are men and women of faith, to take a hand in helping to nurture and challenge these current officers, it is now. America needs law enforcement officers who understand their work to be more than a calling. It is a ministry, God-given and God-blessed. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9 NKJV) Law enforcement officers walk every day and night along the thin line that touches evil on every point yet also touches goodness at corresponding points. To live within such a tension requires a strong faith in something. Most, who do know have a personal relationship with Christ Jesus, would struggle to define what it is that founds their faith except that they know there is something greater than themselves which is holding that line taut. It is little wonder, though, that when Jesus met a Gentile man of whom He declared had greater faith than any of the nation of Israel, that man was a 1st Century Roman police officer, a Centurion. (Matthew 8:10) Today is a day when America needs New Centurions of Faith. Thankfully, there are multitudes of them on the streets this very night holding strong in the battle against evil. If you have not prayed for them lately, please pray for them now. If you have not spoken to one lately and told them you support them, commit to doing so today and, if you have never asked a police officer if you can pray for him or her, I challenge you to do so. You will be overwhelmed by the response you receive.

On the back of my motorcycle helmet is a shield with a blue line through a field of black. It says, ‘to some this is just a thin blue line… to others it is a family crest.’ I may be unpinned. My family may even tell you that I’m unhinged. One thing I’m certain of and that is my Christ is who saw me through my career, even when I did not acknowledge Him and He stands ready to carry the next generation of cops to the end of their tours of duty, in whatever way that may come. I would ask every retired cop, who has faith in Christ, to join me in a strong commitment to do whatever it takes to uphold these new centurions in prayer each and every day.

 

Deepest Blue

Never before in our history has one group sought to cast aside our Constitution as strongly as those who label themselves ‘Progressives” nor has there ever been, in our history one President so inflated of ego, bewitched by socialism, and so flagrant at dismissing the rule of law by which he is to govern.

 

There is something to be said for bright sunshine across a frozen field covered in snow. The brightness of the white is brighter than ever before and the blue of the sky is the deepest blue, so deep that you feel like it goes on beyond forever. A weather phenomenon, new to me in my nearly sixty years, lies across the frozen field. The weathermen called them snow rollers. They look as though someone started to make a snowman and then after rolling for a little while, gave up and walked away; although there are no footprints near them. The weather folks say that this only occurs when three weather variants come together at the precisely the right moment. The air must be a frosty sub-zero, the snow an exact balance of moisture and snowflakes and just the right cross wind blowing along an open stretch of land. Snow rollers are born! Honestly, they do not do much after they are born, they just sit there in the field, looking like the bottom of a snowman someone gave up on! Some of the larger farm fields around here this week have hundreds of these round wonders and some are quite large! If the gods of Mount Olympus decided to have a snowball fight, this is where they would come.

Beyond that dazzling white snow though and those amazing snow rollers, is that amazingly blue sky. The poets call the color, azure. The uniqueness of the name fits the stunning quality of the color. Color is an incredible connection to the senses. It stirs the soul at times and can open the heart to a bravery it never knew it had. Two pictures come to mind when I consider that color. One is on my office wall and shows an eagle majestically perched on a high mountain precipice with that stirring blue behind him to the horizon. Beneath is an edited quote originally from 1 Corinthians 16:13 “Watch, Stand, Be Strong” is beneath the eagle. The Young’s Literal Translation quotes the actual passage as:  “Watch ye, stand in the faith; be men, be strong.”The next photo I have is included here, also of an eagle, his talons clutching the rock crag as he scans the horizon for danger or sustenance. Below him is the following poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson:

The Eagle

He grasps the crag with crooked hands,

Close to the sun in lowly lands.

Ring’d with the azure world he stands.

Eagle on Summit
Eagle on Summit

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls,

He watches from his mountain walls.

And like a thunderbolt he falls.

At one point in our American history, our forefathers considered the turkey as our national bird. Without disparaging the turkey, I’m glad someone suggested the eagle in her place. The majesty of her, whether in flight or at rest; she is a magnificent creature, strong, valiant and with a great deal of character. Everything we want our nation to be. An old bumper sticker piece of wisdom once said, “It’s hard to soar with the eagles when you are surrounded by turkeys.”

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, they had more than their share of trouble. The Christians of the first century were maligned by the religious East; seen as suspicious by the rough people of the northern regions, particularly the mountain ranges that travel up through what is now Eastern Europe and Central Asia; and the Christians were hated by the decadent Romans who controlled the world with their vast armies; corrupt officials and cruel provincial governors. It was wise for Paul to solicit them to be watchful, standing in their faith, and strong of character. Americans as a people and Christians who are also Americans should be able to empathize with the Corinthians and we should heed Paul’s words, perhaps now more than ever in our history.

The shadow of ungodly Communism and Socialism is being cast across this nation from Washington D.C. and westward. Never before in our history has one group sought to cast aside our Constitution as strongly as those who label themselves ‘Progressives” nor has there ever been, in our history one President so inflated of ego, bewitched by socialism, and so flagrant at dismissing the rule of law by which  he is to govern. A popular quote of unknown origin, simply states that “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” This, my fellow Christians and my fellow Americans is NOT the time to do nothing. Rather, we must ‘Watch’ – keep aware of what the enemies of freedom and democracy, of our very Republic are doing; stand in Faith – knowing that God is on His throne, He is holy and righteous and will not be mocked, we should bow in repentance before Him; be men – men of character who stand for values, who lead their families, who work hard and pray harder; be strong – strong in the Lord, living in His strength, fighting the good fight with the Gospel armor in place, the Word upon our hearts and a prayer upon our lips.

Barack Hussein Obama will not be the cause of the fall of America, if she falls. Good Americans who did nothing will be to blame. What do you choose your legacy to be?

A phrase first known to be used in 1650 to describe someone as faithful and devoted is – True Blue. When we look upon that amazing sky that God has provided over us, may we recommit ourselves to be true to our faith, our families, and our country.

When Your Faith Is Not Strong (and for good reason!)

“For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.”

pocket watch quarter

 

Habakkuk 3:17-19

New King James Version (NKJV)

A Hymn of Faith

17 Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

19 The Lord God[a] is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills[i]

Don’t you wish you had Habakkuk’s faith?  He is so sure of himself. He is so confident. Well, maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t. So often we look at “heroes of the faith” and we picture them with halos over their heads, going about in white robes, hands neatly folded, going around blessing people like a Franciscan Friar. The truth be told these were men who struggled with worry and doubt. They had friends turn on them; political trouble, headaches and stomach aches, sore feet and knees and sometimes they were just down-right crabby.

In this particular Bible story, actually in this particular account, when the doors first open and we meet Habakkuk in his prayer time, he is surveying the political and military mess that Israel is in. Habakkuk was making sure God understood the plight of Israel. They were completely surrounded with what seemed like every enemy Israel had and they were coming to annihilate them. It was not a good position to be in and Habakkuk was not entirely sure that God truly appreciated their predicament.

God had one a wonderful reply to Habakkuk, much similar to when He asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?[ii]God told Habakkuk, For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.”[iii] And with that reply, Habakkuk declares that he will remind himself and others that God is on His throne and that he would watch and see what God would do.

Eventually, and I say eventually because it was not until Habakkuk had the opportunity that God gave him time to consider what God had said.

It is possible for us to need a little time to consider what He has said.

The title of the article says ‘for good reason’ because Habakkuk chapter 1 is Habakkuk explaining or more likely complaining to God that: 

O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgmet proceeds.[iv]

 

That may describe well the circumstances you find yourself in today. It seems like no matter what you do there is someone close-by that is there to tear you down, make your success seem like a failure, to make us feel like all our trying is for nothing. Allow me to ask you, the reader, a question. When was the last time you went out of your way to encourage a fellow believer along his or her journey? (That means not just conveniently mention it when it is ‘greet your neighbor’ time on Sunday Morning!) One of the toughest things that can happen to a believer is to face struggles that during his time passing through them he never hears from those he was closest, at least when you are up to your nostrils in deep water, if they won’t throw you a life-preserver; it would at least be nice to get a snorkel!

Recently, I had the opportunity to relate to someone an event that happened to some of us who were ministering in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Traveling one wintry night up the mountain that makes up Tuzla’s main residential area, we were in a van that was not designed for the winding, steep roads. We had finished or visit at the top but our van, unfortunately was facing the wrong direction and the chances of getting it turned around to come down the way we came up was nearly impossible. We opted to continue down the mountain by going ‘forward’ along the road in uncharted territory. When we came to an area that was quite steep and it was impossible to see on ahead, one of our party felt an uncanny sense of alarm, and asked he driver to stop immediately that they would walk out on foot to see what was ahead of our headlight beams, because, of course it being Bosnia, a fog had settled in!

After walking only twenty-five yards ahead, this one turned and came back to share that within 30 yards was a steep embankment where the road had stopped. May cultures would use the term: “cliff.” As we tried to ‘back-up’ and go  back, up the hill the van just spun its tires on the icy roads and at one point nearly struck one of the group as the van suddenly caught dry pavement and lurched to the side. He jumped out of the way into a ditch. That having happened I said a quick prayer under my breath, “Lord, we need help and we need help now!” There was scattered on the mountainside about four houses, al dark and quiet being late into the winter night. Suddenly, (and I mean suddenly) about six young men were there, (supposedly from the houses), and the pushed us up to an area where the van was able to turn and go the safe way up and then down the mountainside. Now, this next part is true and because the Bible says that we are not to swear upon stars etc., for vows; I promise you readers, it is true! I turned to thank   the young men; they were gone, nowhere to be seen!

Why share that story here? Well, as I mentioned, I just had a chance to share that event with a brother who was feeling very blue and without hope and the lesson we gleaned from it was that God is paying attention to our needs. He does hear our prayers and He responds to the cries of His children!

The author of Hebrews writes:  Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.[v]

Isaiah wrote:  “Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.”[vi]

 

Note: All Scripture references NKJV