Line of Duty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A “Child-like” Faith

Dr. Ross L. Riggs

Few times in my adult life have I been truly afraid. In most every circumstance, I was afraid for someone that I loved. I’m not certain of any specific time when I was afraid of what would happen to me, particularly in a physical way. I might suggest, too, I’m not particularly courageous. It is not because I am a strong man who is never afraid of anything. It is more because, unlike many of my brothers in the emergency services and very much unlike those serving in the front lines of our military in combat zones; I have seldom been placed in a predicament that might cost me my life. Don’t get me wrong, in all my years in police work, I had threats, and guns or knives used against me and more than a few fights; some which, for a time, we weren’t sure who was winning. There was one time, in such a fight, that I awoke from unconsciousness, face down on a brick road and my first thought was, ‘If I don’t get up I am going to die’ Still, I don’t remember being scared, just aware of my circumstances. Once or twice, as a volunteer firefighter, on the end of a hose crawling through black smoke, unable to see, all I could do was feel my way and feel the intense heat around me… that was orifice puckering, without a doubt. Usually, though, it was after the incident, when there was time to contemplate what might have happened, then there was time to be afraid.

John Wayne is quoted as saying, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” Probably, if I had to stand in the open door of a C130 cargo plane, attached to a line to parachute out the door, I would probably be more afraid of that than anything else I can imagine (unless it involves a pit full of snakes in the dark…)  My son, Daniel, was in the U.S. Army Airborne and he loved the thrill of jumping. I would probably squeal like a little girl all the way out the door! daniel 325 1st brigade red falcons hhcAgain, John Wayne, in the movie, The Green Beret, spoke to a South Vietnamese colonel about parachuting. He said, “The first one is easy. It’s the second one that is hard to get them to make.”

Fear and courage are perhaps two sides of the same coin. In the Bible, there are several references to mighty men of valor. In the Chronicles and the books of First and Second Kings, we read of David’s army and men within those ranks that were such men. There were many who were very highly praised for their valor; but, only a select few attained to the highest rankings of the Mighty Men. At one point, outside the enemy’s camp, David spoke of desiring water from the well that was within the enemy’s headquarters. Unbeknownst to David, three of the ‘Mighty Men’ secreted their way into the enemy camp and obtained the water for their King. Upon their return, David learned of their honoring his request. He refused to drink the water, and said it was now of such value because of the risk the men took, all he could do was to offer it up to God as a sacrifice. The Mighty Men of Valor were more devoted to honoring their King than they were concerned about their own safety. They also, had a pretty strong belief in their ability to pull off the daring deed successfully. Did they experience fear? If they did not feel fear, could they truly have been courageous?

Can one exhibit courage unless it stands over the fear which seeks to overwhelm the man of valor? Courage from faith comes when one has gone through life-threatening scenarios because of one’s profession; even though, at the time, the adrenalin and training was enough to keep a person reacting.  Then, afterwards, to realize how fearful a thing it was through which they have come; to don the uniform again and go back at it, night after night; is what The Duke meant by, ‘saddling up anyway.’ A similar courage is found in the spouse of that person who, night after night, pats their loved one’s chest to make sure the one they love is wearing a vest; and then watches them walk out that door. Saddling up, also, is the soldier’s wife, a thousand miles away, as she says a prayer with her children for their daddy; kisses their foreheads and assures them, “Daddy is just fine, now go to sleep. He’ll be home as soon as he can.” She goes to her room then, and prays herself to sleep.

Perhaps some of the bravest people I have met are children. I have witnessed more courage by children in a hospital setting than anywhere else I have been. I volunteered with my dog, Gunner, at Akron Children’s Hospital. In the burn ward, on the cancer floor, awaiting surgery or overcoming an amputated limb, these are some of the most resilient and most tenacious; some of the strongest yet most fragile people I have ever met. The common ingredient among them… faith. Gunner at ACH.JPG

Many I met had a faith in God and in Jesus Christ. Many more weren’t sure about any theology, they just knew that Jesus loved them. Even though they did not understand why Jesus or God would allow them to be like they were, they just knew that Jesus loved them and was going to make sure they were Okay, even if that meant dying and going to heaven. That was the other thing they were sure of too, their place in heaven. That doesn’t mean there were not questions and doubts; fear and tears. At the end of the day, though, the children taught the adults around them great lessons in faith. Just knowing that Jesus would do what He said He would do; was enough for them! That is what Jesus was talking about when He said we must come to Him in childlike faith.

Childlike faith does not mean we blindly accept whatever comes our way with no depth of understanding. The Old Testament tells of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; three Jewish young men, taken captive and living as officials to the king in the palace, with faith as strong as a child. Refusing to bow in homage to the king in worship of his likeness, they were sentenced to be thrown alive into a super-heated furnace. Knowing the furnace would be certain death, they boldly told the king how certain they were, even if their God did not save them from the fire, He was still God; and everything would be Okay. They understood death was imminent, still they knew following what they believed to be God’s will for them was more important than what they might endure physically.

I come up against a misapplication of this theology at times when I speak to missionaries and others in similar service about contingency planning. Too often, there is an almost frivolous God will take care of it attitude and I make the case in my thesis: In Times of Risk, Developing Contingency Plans for Missionary Sending Churches and Agencies, which is available through Summit University, Richard J. Murphy Library, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. The Bible is replete with great examples of God-ordained contingency planning. Nehemiah is probably one of the clearest examples. One man works while another holds a spear and each works nearest their home to protect it also.

One particularly obstinate opponent to contingency planning, a former head of an international missionary sending agency, completely disagreed with my statement on martyrs for the faith. Often, we eulogize men and women who died while serving in a ministry capacity as martyrs when, in fact, they may have also have lived, Lord-willing by simple choices and planning. Sometimes, they could have stayed alive by just learning when to remain quiet. God knows, and I don’t judge; but, I also do not step in front of an on-coming training saying that God will protect me and if I die it must be His will! The Bible does teach, I believe, that God knows, from before we are born, the day that we will die. Because He knows we will die that day, stepping in front of that train, doesn’t necessarily mean it was His will for us to have done it! As a police officer, I always wore a bullet-proof vest and when driving, my seatbelt. Does that mean I did not have enough faith in God to protect me? No! It means I used the tools provided to me and the common-sense God endowed with me to be cautious.

Faith, the faith of a child, knows God will do what He says He will do. Such faith is what moves mountains. I can only echo the statement of the father of the little boy to Jesus.  When Jesus asked him if he believed, Mark 9:24 recounts the father’s desperate cry: “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’”

Man praying

Photo courtesy of How Crying Saved My Life by Marliza Gunter, HubPages

When Life Doesn’t Fit

 

Have you ever had times when, no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot make life fit into that perfect little box you have been constructing all your life? You know the box I’m talking about. Your parents and even your grandparents probably helped you build it. Certainly, in today’s world, the media helps you build it. Back in my day, shows like Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver and a dozen more fantasy television shows built the box that most of us in our WASP worlds saw as normal family life. Movies showed us patriotism and that things ALWAYS worked out happily ever after in the end. Even when you fall off a 150-foot cliff and an anvil slams down on top of you, you will be just fine; at least if you are Wile E. Coyote.

If you went to the kind of church many of us did, you also had neatly tucked into the back of your mind the list of Do’s and Don’ts that make for good people. Some churches would even give you a box to keep that list in! There was a definite line between good and evil. Such things were black and white. Why else would the good guys on the late-night westerns always wear a white hat and the bad guys a black one? It was all part of our box that we had so carefully constructed. We couldn’t even consider that our boxes could be made to come apart.

Is there a certain amount of pressure that, when applied to the box, makes things fit the way they should? Can that unknown amount of pressure cause the box to go flying into a gazillion pieces across the room?

It is difficult enough when the box you have with things sticking out in all directions that is starting to come apart is your own; but, what if that box you had built was one you had constructed for your child? You know, that precious wonderful child of yours, no matter what age, that you love more than life itself… you have in your mind, in your heart really, as to how their life will be so much more comfortable, less stressful, less hurtful than yours was and that all their wondrous dreams will come true. That is the special box you have built for them. Then, for what seems like no fair reason, nothing is fitting in that box. Your heart is absolutely crushed as you see your child now faced with a life that is nothing like you would like it to be. Sometimes, maybe it is because of their own bad choices; yet so often, it is because of someone else’s hurtful actions. Boxes can also be smashed by something even more difficult to get a handle on, a vicious disease that has grabbed hold of your child, sending your box careening across the room.box

Whenever our boxes get busted, there is a great tendency to blame just about everyone, including God. It took quite a bit of time for me to work through how my own box just couldn’t possibly hold all of what I expected life was supposed hold. I finally learned that much of what I thought was supposed to be in my box was just completely unrealistic, too much Loonie Toons and not enough 60 Minutes. Now that I’m pushing the door open on my sixth decade, I know that a portion the box busting was because of my own bad choices along the way too, although at the time I wouldn’t have seen it.

What about those times when your box starts breaking apart and it is because of the horrific actions of another? Is it better when there is someone to blame? Is it worse when there is just an organism or a genetic anomaly to blame and not a person? Does God take the heat even more when what appears as such a senseless hurt has no one at which to point your finger?

Certainly, there can be very real times when the grief caused by the bursting of one’s life expectations is the result of the sin or evil actions of another. Not a day goes by when there isn’t a crime committed by a person with no regard for life, whether his or another’s. The multiple boxes that can be shattered by that one person’s actions can result in a firestorm of anger and resentment and some of that will still be shoved on God. We shake our fist or scream out at God and demand to know why He allowed such hurt.

As I have studied the wondrous Scriptures with this question in mind, I have come up with one very profound truth. To be quite self-asserting, I don’t know that any student of the Bible, any theologian, great preacher or teacher of the holy book has ever found this particular bit of wisdom, at least not in the way I have discovered it! (Okay, I said all of that just to whet your appetite for what I am about to share… even Solomon once said there is nothing new under the sun!)

When we are ready to demand from God why He would so destroy our boxes, the truth that the Bible will make clear to us is: God is NOT in the box business! He does not build them and because He has not constructed your box, it is also NOT His responsibility that its construction is of shoddy workmanship or that it was built to specifications that are NOT His! It is true that Jesus was a carpenter, a very well-trained one to be sure. It is also true that He is the master creator of everything. God’s Word tells us in the book of John that without Him nothing was made that was made!

God doesn’t build boxes and He doesn’t design boxes either. People who are big on ‘RELIGION’ like to believe that their boxes are uniquely designed by God to make certain that His people do church the one right way. They are mistaken. One box may be three hymns and an offering or a sermon with three points and a prayer. Another box may be candles in the corners and censers flying in all directions while a low voice mumbles a liturgy that no one can hear and, even if they did, they wouldn’t understand a word of it because it is in Latin! Boxes like those into which people have stuffed their religion are usually rectangular and have a lid. It’s appropriate that they resemble a coffin.

God did provide us with a framework for how He would have us to live out our lives here and even about how to do church. The base boards are these: Love the Lord your God all your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbor as yourself.  That’s for us as we seek to live in community with one another. As to how we are to pattern ourselves individually to please God, He gave us three side boards. They are: Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with God. Then when it came to being useful as a Church body, He gave us two great handles for us to hold: Baptism and Communion. Finally, God knew that the living of life and the doing of church would often require us to bear some burdens, our own and one another’s; so, to the framework He gave us he added an axle by telling us to ‘GO’ and He added two wheels, evangelism and discipleship.

If LIFE doesn’t FIT in your BOX, try Christ’s push-cart instead.pushcart

 

On a Scale

We have all been asked that question in some form or another… On a scale from 1 to 10 how would you rate…? In 1978, I received my first collegiate ring. With a stone of deep blue, it was crested on its center with the scales of justice, reflective of my degree in criminal justice. The scale of justice is held high in the one hand of Lady Justice, who is blindfolded and carrying a sword in her other hand. Blind to preference, to position, status, race or creed, wealth or poverty; she remains in our history as a noble representative of what our system of justice should be. I know many noble minded persons who have dedicated their lives to being certain that the scales of justice are, in fact, balanced before the weight of true and tested evidence can be brought before determiners of guilt or innocence. Her shelforiginal name in the Latin is Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice and she is often accompanied by Prudentia the goddess whose name is contracted from providentia the ability to see the future as a sage might discern how best to proceed.  Representing the ideal of governing and disciplining oneself by reason, Prudentia’s accoutrements of a mirror and a snake allude to careful reflection and caution in moving forward. The Greek’s, whose gods and goddesses aligned with most of the Roman’s, called Prudentia ϕρονησιϛ (https://fellowshipoftheminds.com/tag/prudence-latin-prudentia) which is now usually translated as practical wisdom or rational choice. Together the pair would call for a careful weighing of all evidence upon the merits of each, alone and then choosing the best course for discipline.

What brought me to consider Lady Justice was a set of the scales of justice which I own. I was looking over a few items that adorn the library area of my study when it caught my eye. There sits, front and center the scales of justice and above it is the American and Christian flags, two symbols of my heritage, my faith, and my loyalty. Immediately to the left of the American flag is a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Immediately to the right of the Christian flag is a Bible from my father, which was given to him by a military chaplain, as he was recovering from wounds received when his ship was sunk off the coast of Normandy, June 6, 1944. Also there, among a few of the memories of my police and military service, stand three American Eagles from a larger set. These three are titled, “Courage Honor Sacrifice”, “Never Surrender” and “Never Forget”. The trio set the tone for what this small display means to me.

Among the books visible in the photograph are ones from the Ohio Retired Police Chiefs’ Association, a book from my time at the FBI National Academy and a book from my basic training days with the United States Air Force. More than my article or the information about me inside these books, each reminds me of people that reflect the titles carried by the three eagle sculptures.

Two retired chiefs, one who was gone before the Ohio Retired Police Chiefs Association was born and another who has been the heartbeat of the organization and the motivation behind many of my writings on honor within our ranks. They represent well Courage, Honor, Sacrifice. One was Chief George Ziga of the Alliance, Ohio Police Department and the other Chief Marion Taylor of the North Olmsted, Ohio Police Department. Near death, Chief Ziga admonished me, a young chief then, to stay true to my God, my values, my family and my profession. Anyone who ever knew Chief Ziga would tell you he represented the model for each of those objectives. Knowing Chief Taylor, his professionalism is informed by his Christian faith.

From the NA came a man, an FBI Special Agent, that I got to know while he was an instructor at Quantico. Now, a plaque and an annual service award commemorate his service which ended while on special assignment in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war in the mid-1990’s; less than ten years since I first met Livio A. Beccaccio. He is the epitome of Never Surrender. The award named for him is inscribed as follows: “The Livio A. Beccaccio Award is a living memorial presented to a FBI National Academy Associate member who has demonstrated exemplary character through an act of heroism, outstanding community service, innovation in law enforcement, or leadership reflective of that by which FBI Special Agent Livio A. Beccaccio lived.”

(http://www.fbinaa.org/FBINAA/About_Us/Awards___Scholarships/FBINAA/Members_Only/Awards_and_Scholarships.aspx?hkey=0346bbf8-a0ce-4a5b-87cc-65f5ffb87148)

Finally, from my days at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas, at the tail-end of the Vietnam War, a SSgt who took on a rag-tag flight of trainees, who had been to hell and back with our first TI who suffered severely with PTSD in the days of Vietnam when such a diagnosis was unknown. He was likely tagged as ‘shell shocked sergeant’ who probably never received any help. Our second TI, SSgt Gillam was a man of character and morals who knew his own true north. He took us from not knowing which end of the rifle the bullets exited to men prepared to move on in training and ready to head into harm’s way, if so ordered. He had seen and understood the cost of Vietnam and he stands strong as a model airman to never forget our POWs & MIAs, all our veterans, but particularly those from Vietnam; nor would SSgt. Gillam ever expect us to forget 9-11. Four men who represent the strength of the U.S.A.’s justice.

The bedrock of our criminal justice system, here in America, rests upon the scales of Lady Justice. Our honor is passed as a torch from those chiefs who took their oath with their hand upon the Bible and their hearts indwelt by the God of that Bible. Our freedom comes from the sacrifices like Livio Beccaccio, thousands of other fallen officers and even more men and women who don the shield every day and stand that thin blue line. Our heritage is passed to our next generations when we remember those who fought valiantly on foreign shores and here at home to keep the flag of America flying high.

Just as the banner of red and white stripes and shining white stars on a field of blue continue to fly and represent the most blessed nation on the face of the Earth, so too must our faith in the One Lord God who made us One in Him, compel us to live by faith and not by sight. We will always know times of trouble in our land and often they come from our own actions or our failure to act. But we, as citizens of America and saints of the Kingdom of God can know that Christ has already won the final victory. He calls us to remain faithful to our calling and to take up our cross and follow Him!

I know that there isn’t some fantasy goddess who holds the scales of justice in her hands. God’s Word informs me that it is Christ who brings justice. Isaiah prophesied and Matthew recorded Jesus quoting the prophet, ““Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles.” (Matthew 12:18 NKJV) Speaking of the role of police officers, Jesus also said, “For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4 NKJV)

It should be no wonder to us that, as I thought about those items on my shelf, those men came to mind in such a context. Each one of them were men of faith. They lived out remarkable witnesses because of that faith. Not one would claim any greatness on his own and certainly none would lay any claim to being anything apart from what they are within the Lord.

Law enforcement today is much maligned by the liberal media. Christians are too. Both are in good company since Christ, Himself, was counted among the criminals, scoffed at, beaten and abused. In America, the system may not be perfect, still though, the admonition of John Adams, a founding father and president concerning our legal system is upheld. “Better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man convicted.” The scales of justice balance out pretty well. Compared to other places I have seen firsthand, I’m proud to live and have served in America’s criminal justice system where restoration is possible for those who choose wisely. Likewise, for those who choose unwisely, there are consequences. On a scale of 1 to 10… I’ll score a ten that I’d rather be tried for something I’ve been alleged to do here in the United States than anywhere else in the world. I praise God that my life and my family are under the protection of American police officers and I thank Him daily for every single one of them and pray for their safety.

 

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.

 

Beautiful People

Over the years, I have had occasion to go under light anesthesia a few times when my wife, who is a physician, would be standing nearby. I usually requested of her to report to me afterward if I said anything untold while I was under the effect of the drugs. I never wanted to have anything I say while not in control of my faculties to dishonor Christ, embarrass my family or disparage anyone; particularly the doctor who was probably holding a very sharp scalpel! Thus far the reports have been favorable. There is always a possibility, I believe, when our inhibitions are lowered and our natural defenses are removed, we may speak that what may or may not reflect our true self by our words. Perhaps it is more likely that under the influence of drugs, our subconscious finds the freedom to wag our tongues. In any event, I am thankful that God has put a muzzle across my mouth thus far!

I have been told that I can, under the effect of serious pain killers, tell a pretty funny story or two! During one such episode. I recounted to my visiting cop friends that we were going to do a raid on the local middle school. Inasmuch as I was retired at the time of this particular story, it made even less sense. My visitors did get a good laugh out of it, so the medicine was not wasted!

Very recently, I had the honor of visiting a dear friend of mine who soon will be in the presence of his Lord. He has been around for a few years. In fact, if his promotion to heaven would be delayed by a bit longer, he would have soon reached his centennial celebration of life! God has other plans for him though, it seems, and soon he will be reunited with his wife of more than sixty years. What a tri-partite meeting that will be!

The reason I mention my friend is that, when I visited him, he had been in such pain that Hospice had upped his pain medication and he was not inhibited in what he decided to share with us. One might well imagine that being near death, having been in agonizing pain for some time and being unable to do even the most basic things for himself, that he would have more than a few things to complain about. Not my friend.

Upon seeing my wife and I enter his small apartment, my friend reached out his hand to take hold of mine. He began to repeat slowly, while looking at Karin and I, “beautiful people.” Now, anyone who knows us, beautiful is an adjective that can describe Karin; but that is not a descriptor that is usually used when describing my mug! I know, though, that my friend was alluding to something much deeper than our physical appearance. To him, our coming to see him, to show that we care for him and love him reaffirms in his mind that we are lovely and he wanted us to know how much he appreciated us. Even in his heavily sedated mind-set; his thoughts were of others and not of himself. That isn’t surprising because that is the way he always has been.

I am thankful for being permitted to know him and his wife for a good number of years and my friend has always been so very interested in others. He is so very thankful for the kindness shown to him by others and I know that is appropriate. However, I also know that all of the love and kindness poured out on him in these days is the result of a lifetime he has invested in others.

Someone once made the observation that you can always tell among those attending a funeral who truly loved the person for whom the service is performed. They are the only ones not looking at their watch! When my friend’s time finally comes, no one in that sanctuary will be checking the time.

 

Through the Keyhole

Earlier this evening as I opened my FACEBOOK page, over on the left column it asked me to add a public ‘bio’ so I sat and penned what I thought should be said. Well, after a few minutes when I went to save it, it said that I was 2844 characters over what is permitted. So… since I cannot say it there, I will say it here! If you have a desire to read this short ‘bio’ – I hope you enjoy it. If you choose not to – I will not be offended in the least. For me it was an exercise in thinking about my priorities, so here it is my “short bio”!

First and foremost, I am a sinner saved by grace, a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Without Him in my life I am nothing and I have no hope for the future. I make no boast but in Him alone. He did not save me because I deserved it but because He loved me even though I could never deserve or earn it!

After that, I am the husband of Karin for almost forty years. I have been far from a perfect husband; but, she remains my life partner whom I love with all that I have to love. I am blessed to have her in my life and blessed with four great children, all of whom are grown and married and so far we have eight grandchildren, two boys and six girls ranging in age right now from 8 years to about 1 month. yogiOur newest is the daughter of our “adopted” daughter (child number five if you are counting, who came to us not by birth but by 747 as an exchange student back in 1996.) We tried to keep her but the best we could do was share her with her own parents in the Philippines and now we share her with our ‘adopted’ son-in-law Andy!

Our not so regular kids are: Heidi with her husband Nick, Suzanne with her hubby Dave, Sarah with her husband Mike and Daniel with his wife Sarah. We have another little child who went to be with her (his?) Heavenly Father before he or she was able to be with us. We look forward to meeting him or her someday.

My work and life’s passion since my teen years has been law enforcement as well as time as a firefighter and EMT, too. I retired as a Chief of Police and now own a private investigations and security consulting agency.

After I retired, I attended seminary and for almost fifteen years Karin and I have had the joy of serving as missionaries to help care for missionaries all across Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. I have worked a great deal with them in the area of security and contingency planning. We enjoy our service in a local church with whom I will begin serving as a Deacon in January. I love to teach and do so whenever I have an opportunity.

I enjoy fishing and hunting, horseback riding and I’m a ‘ham’ radio operator since 1971! (WB8KMP)

Most of all I love to be with family whether it is babysitting grandchildren or travel.

Every moment is but a wisp of smoke through a keyhole and cannot be grasped and held so that it might stay longer than the brief time it is allotted. So I inhale deeply, as the moments go past and drink as deeply with each precious memory that is so fragile it can be lost in an instant.

I love to read and study the Bible and I enjoy reading mysteries the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle. I have authored a book on policing in a new century during times of great threat. It is due to be published this winter. yogi-bear-n-boo-boo

Rather than an epitaph engraved on a cold stone over an empty grave; I much prefer to have a message written on the hearts of those I love and leave behind that says simply: Ross, He loves the Lord, his wife and his family. He tried his best and is a trophy to God’s grace.

What Do I Do Now?

With the U.S. Supreme Court decision this week (June 2015) that legalizes gay marriages nation-wide, I was asked by a godly friend of mine, “What do you intend to do now?” As I thought that through the first reflection that I had was that America has, as a government, stopped following the Judeo-Christian God years ago that the nation was founded upon. This is just another log on the fire of what I believe will be the eventual lessening of the U.S. in world affairs. Recently I heard a self-proclaimed expert on Bible prophecy explain that the reason the U.S. is not mentioned in biblical prophecy of the end-times is because it  is under the hidden name of Babylon. I did not listen very long. There is no way with a literal-biblical hermeneutic that anyone can make the argument that the U.S. is Babylon of Revelation. Most have said for years that Babylon in Revelation is Rome because of the papacy; but, I believe that Babylon is Babylon – just ask ISIS. America is not mentioned, thus we are not important in the last days because we, like the rest of the world turned our back on Israel and on God.  What do I do now?

I am going to follow the admonitions of Christ. His commandments were: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might. Love your neighbor as yourself. Go into all the world and make disciples, first in Jerusalem, then Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth. In Micah 6:8 we read: “What does the Lord require of you? But to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” I will preach only God’s truth. The Bible tells us, “Your Word is Truth”

When it comes to me as a pastor and performing wedding ceremonies. I already will only marry those I believe to be born-again believers in Christ. We go through that in premarriage counseling and get the issue settled. Will I marry a gay couple? Peter said it best before the Sanhedrin when they were told to stop preaching Christ crucified and resurrected. In Acts 5:29 we read: “But Peter and the apostles answered and said, “We must obey God rather than man.”

I determined a long time ago that I am willing to go to jail for my faith and my family. Someday it may come to that.

Until then, we are admonished to obey those placed in positions of authority over us and to pray for them. I will do that.

What do I do now? The same things I have tried to do already – through the faith of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, I will love God with all that I am; love and care for others, share Christ whenever and wherever the Holy Spirit opens the door staying true to the TRUTH of God’s Word. I will do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before God. I will pray for our nation and its leaders. When pressed to choose, I will obey God rather than man. The outcomes are always and already in God’s hands.

A Response from the President

A Response from the President

THE WRONG COLOR RED: Radicalism Comes Home

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ON THE HOMEFRONT

ImageGilles de Kerchove,the EU Counterterrorism Coordinator declared before a UK Parliamentary hearing that the return of high risk, highly volatile Islamic extremists from Syria to the United Kingdom is “unprecedented. … All the reports I have seen suggest that it is becoming increasingly acute.” According to the Langley Intelligent Network, the British Home Office warned, “Dealing with terrorism in Syria is a very significant challenge due to the numbers of people fighting with the many Syria based terrorist groups, their proximity to the UK, ease of travel across porous borders and the ready availability of weapons.”[i]

What does this mean for the United States and its foreign policy particularly when it comes to dealing with international issues of terrorism and political unrest?

The current situation in Ukraine unveils the Russian bear, Vladimir Putin again showcasing the vulnerability of the United States and the weakness of this administration. It is a case in point of the inability of national governments to function effectively when leadership fails to adhere to the standards by which a citizenry can live in peace. There is no excuse that the citizens of Ukraine living on the peninsula of Crimea are suffering without water or electricity because their homeland has been invaded by an opposing army and no one has checked the violence brought by criminal elements acting under the direction of Vladimir Putin. A nation’s leadership will set the bar for its vulnerability whether international terrorism, crime or attack by foreign forces.

The same is true now for Great Britain. Parliament failed to act decades ago to stem the tide of Islamic extremists pouring across the borders, overwhelming communities, and degrading the legal and political system to their own advantage. The political correctness police have brought the British society to the point of near annihilation. Several British nationals have shared that they cannot even recognize London as their own any longer.

Feckless has become a term equated with the inability of the current Obama administration to be able to do anything to stand up against those forces that spit in the face of America. Recently, Retired Lt. Colonel Oliver North was quoted as making this very clear statement, “We don’t need a head of state who draws a phony red line with a pink crayon.”

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What will it take for societies – that value freedom, democracy and, (whether they now admit it or not), have a foundation of Judeo-Christian values; to stand-up strong for those values that once made them great?

There has been a lot of blood spilled, not just over the centuries, but in these last two decades all in the name of Islam. If the hardline followers believe it to truly be a religion of peace, then how do they explain its resulting hardship, pain and grief particularly for their own people? Their own leadership has succeeded in embittering their people and reducing their lives to a struggle to survive. Never has there been a generation of harmony and peace between them and their neighbors for they define peace as only the total rule of Islam  with total subjugation to their own rule, where no persons may live under another faith.

The African sub-Saharan is a primary example of the extremist mindset. Thousands of non-Muslim people, men, women and children are murdered in the most brutal of ways, without any shred of human dignity or compassion.

This piece is not, however, primarily a piece on the logic or the fundamentals of Islam. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of all comfort, the Father of all mercies (as Paul described him); never forced Himself on anyone. But, you say, in the ancient times the God of the Bible ordered entire populations killed in order to preserve His people ‘of the Book’, the Hebrews. I can only reply that in those instances, God, as sovereign with total right to reign over His creation, I believe knew the heart of every individual soul that perished and none were punished eternally that God was not fully aware of what was taking place and it was necessary for righteousness of His creation. Does that mean that children died naturally and were eternally separated from God? I believe that as God is a God of compassion and grace, no one was separated from Him eternally that was not fully capable of choosing to deny His grace.

God, Jehovah, was very clear that His people were not to allow themselves to be drawn away by other religions or gods; nor were they to allow those who taught such religions to take root within their communities. God’s people were (and are) to live among them in peace and if by the lives of the believers that they might win some, (those are Paul’s words). That was a good thing but to allow those who degraded and derided their faith, God would not allow for that. His patience is longsuffering and His grace sufficient but it is not without end. There will be a day when the doors shall be shut and the chances have run out.

To what end does this bring us? Here is a list: National governments who prey on and destroy their own people like Bashar al Assad and his cronies, even to the point of chemical weapons and mass murder. Egomaniacal dictators like Vladimir Putin whose demented mind at the age of a young teen even longed to be a KGB agent to strike fear into the hearts of those who trusted him. Inept novice rulers, like those atop the Ukrainian political rubble. Parliamentarians who have leaned so far left in the desire to be politically correct they have allowed themselves to be blinded to the eroding away of the very fabric of their Kingdom.  Then there is the United States with a socialist president who believes that re-setting buttons with Putin, bowing before Middle Eastern royalty, backing down from countries like Iraq and Syria, turning his back on our only allied democratic nation in the Middle East who also happens to have the divine promise for those who aid Israel and the curse for those who fail to do so. And finally, the people of the United States who have stood back and allowed it to happen.

This is the list of the culpable. It is time to put a stop to the madness. Every citizen of each of the countries named here and, for that matter, every  citizen of each of the countries not named here, should realize the important role – the absolutely critical role – that they have to set and maintain the standard for democracy, independence, and true freedom of religion. That means that each citizen may not only worship, in a house of worship as they choose (these are the limitations the Obama administration seeks for religious “freedom”) but to live out their faith within community. This requires, of course, that the Muslim has as much right to choose to live out his or her faith in peaceful accord with the remainder of society as does the Southern Baptist. I mentioned earlier that God required His people not to syncretize their faith with that of the other religions. But, Christ also modeled the ability to love people where they were and by love, show them the true faith.Strong, yet compassionate. We must never again sacrifice our principles in the name of tolerance and we should never resort to hate because of ignorance. Maintain who we are, strengthen who we will be, develop who we can be and exhibit to the world the foundation of our faith, unapologetically, with grace; the same amount of grace we are thankful God bestowed on us.

 

[i]http://www.lignet.com/ArticleAnalysis/UK-Threat-Radicals-Returning-From-Syria.aspx?ns_mail_uid=4703528&ns_mail_job=175366_04282014#ixzz30WceLmyA

 

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

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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