WAR ZONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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 Watering Trough or Mountain Spring?

Reflections on John Piper’s devotion,

Serve God with Your Thirst

Please take a few minutes to read John Pipers, Serve God with Your Thirst, before enjoying this reflection.

At a recent gathering of Christian men; a dear brother read to us John Piper’s Serve God with Your Thirst. I was hit square on by the passage  and want to share some of my own reflections from that first view  of this work. In his devotional titled, Solid Joys, Piper has penned this short piece and he makes the analogy between a watering trough and a mountain spring. Having been the keeper of horses, (I’m not certain anyone truly owns a horse, but they allow themselves to be kept, fed, cared for and, upon occasion, will acquiesce to a rider), I found the analogy striking. Piper writes, “God is a mountain spring, not a watering trough. A mountain spring is self-replenishing. It constantly overflows and supplies others. But a watering trough needs to be filled with a pump or bucket.”

Something Piper did not report was that a watering trough is a breeding ground for all types of yuck. Without a good power washing or scrubbing, before long there are more things living in the trough than are supplied by it. Mosquitos, fly larvae, and some bacteria without nice names will soon make the trough not just unusable, but unsafe. A mountain spring, however, is forever new, refreshed, clean, crisp and clear. Piper’s analogy, of course, is succinct. Our indwelling in Christ is not of our work, but His.

He goes on to write,” If you want to glorify the worth of a watering trough, you work hard to keep it full and useful. But if you want to glorify the worth of a spring, you do it by getting down on your hands and knees and drinking to your heart’s satisfaction, until you have the refreshment and strength to go back down in the valley and tell the people what you’ve found.”

Recently, my wife and I sat on the patio of a restaurant along the bank of a river. As we watched, the river run past. The cool breeze of the afternoon was a welcome relief from the hot summer sun over us, shaded just enough by the grape arbor and magnificent oak that grew along the water’s edge. I remarked how the water pushing past us just then, rushing toward the Ohio River then working its way south to the Gulf of Mexico, would not come past us again. It was gone. But, even before it was out of reach, new water arrived to replace it. And so, it is with God’s grace. A mountain spring whose waters are fresh every second invite you to drink deeply, even wade in and allow the water to cover you. That the grace of God could be felt like that cool, mountain spring, pouring over us, new every minute.

https://desiringgod.org/articles/serve-god-with-your-thirst
trough photos courtesy of West Fork Ranch – Western Country Realty and Current Events in Historical Perspective The Ohio State – Dry Days Downunder
Smokey Mountain Spring Photograph courtesy Don F. Bradford

 

per-spec-tive {pƏr’spektiv}, n

This morning I had been awakened sometime after four with some nagging issues on my mind. It was meant for me, I think, to sit in the dark room, in my grandmother’s rocking chair; listening to its almost melancholy creaking noises, as I slowly rocked back and forth. (At least I think it was the chair that was making the creaking sounds!) My thoughts were mostly about a teaching assignment. The assignment turned in by one student had me concerned. As I worked through the issue, I could hear the gentle sounds of two of my pre-school age grandchildren asleep in the same room where I was sitting. The soft rustling by the children against the creak of the old rocker and the dark of the room contrasting the bright light of my computer screen, as I penned a response to my student, all sought to give me some perspective. A short time later, I looked out the window to see the sun slowly breaking through the eastern sky and almost straight above it was the crescent moon, as if it was battling to keep its place in the sky from the on-coming day. Perspective.

I know I have written before about my father who was aboard a PC boat, a patrol-craft, the 1261 which was the first recorded ally ship sunk at the D-Day invasion. My dad lived, though many of his shipmates did not. To this day, it is not known for certain whether my father’s ship was sunk by a shore battery or a torpedo from a U-boat that hit the PC1261 mid-ship, directly below where my dad was manning the radio room. The complement of sailors aboard the 1261 was usually just under sixty. My dad’s ship spent most of its duty hours escorting ships across the shark and U-boat infested waters of the Caribbean and the Atlantic When the 1261 was sunk, she lost 13 of her crew to the Channel.

This morning, I read an article about German U-boats, the scourge of the Atlantic during the war. According to an article on the PC Sailors Association website[i], the presence of the PC boats (sixty in all) deterred the U-boat activity and were credited with only a few U-boats sunk; but, the threat of their depth charges was real.

According to the U-boat article, there were 1154 submarines commissioned and, of those, 795 were sunk. Of the 40,000 German sailors assigned to U-boats, 30,000 men, or 75 percent, were killed when their ships were sunk[ii]. Over sixty-five percent of the ships were lost at sea.

The fear of an unseen enemy deep underwater for those on the PC boats and the terror of the sound of a falling depth charge which could mean your U-boat becomes a steel tomb at the bottom of the ocean – perspective.

trolls

Don’t get me wrong, here. I know, as well as most, that life is not all “cupcakes and rainbows” and no amount of glitter can just make everything Okay. Cooper and Sky Diamond could follow you around all day and you will still have all the concerns with which you started! Do you really want your day determined by trolls, anyway?

The key to perspective is who is in charge. When I am in charge, I am the center and everything must be about me. It is my pain, it is my inability to sleep, or my… you can fill in the blank. If God is in charge then there is a reason or something to be gained by everything. My not sleeping gives me time to appreciate the night, the children and the chair. My care is for the students, the people I will meet in the day and finding ways that God intends for me to be a blessing for them. Does perspective make the pain and problems go away? No, but it can shrink them to the right size for them to fit into God’s plan for your life and He will be at the center. Someone once said if you are down at the bottom of a very deep well, the only way to look is up!

frog

 

[i] http://ww2pcsa.org/patrol-craft.html

[ii] http://usasocialcondition.com/incredible-facts-that-will-give-you-a-new-perspective-on-world-war-ii/6/

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

 

The Loss of One

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.

One Nation: Equal and Fair to All

Do you remember growing up in the days of playing marbles as a kid in school? Outside our elementary school, between the brick school and the asphalt playground, was a long strip of just plain dirt about three feet wide and the length of the building. It was in the pristinely manicured dirt that boys (boys only – it was an unwritten rule) played marbles. It wasn’t that the boys refused to allow the girls to play. As I recall it, we were yucky and we had cooties so the girls would rather be jumping rope or playing on the swings. They chose their own games because playing marbles was just dumb.

I can recall having my very own faux leather marble bag alternating green and tan sections with a leather drawstring at the top. It was great to show off your best Cat’s Eye or sky blue marble and if you had Jumbos or Steelies, you had a marble shooter’s weapon of choice!marble-bag

The game, for all those who are marble deficient in your education began with a circle drawn in the dirt. A stick, pencil or ruler would do, but most often, the always handy index finger was the best. The game began with each player putting a marble in the circle and, in turn, you used your shooter marble to try and knock your opponents’ marbles out of the circle; at which point, it became yours. This is critical to understanding the game. The shooter who wins a marble gets to keep shooting until he misses or the marble hit does not roll out of the circle. The marbles not rolling out, stay in the circle and are fair game for anyone to shoot at, and if skilled or lucky, to win. Some kids left the game having lost all their marbles. (No pun intended!) Those guys would be found on the weekend scrounging for empty pop bottles to return to the store for the 2 cent deposit refund. They would use their new found cash to return to the Five and Dime store to buy more marbles before the next school week.

In today’s politically correct world, there would be a hue and cry raised across the land if Little Johnny came home without his marbles because some other kid had won them! That’s not fair! We have to teach our kids that everyone is a winner! Everything must be equal! This is America – everything is to be fair and equal!

If you do a word search of either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States and try to find fair and equal you will find only one sentence. “… all men are created equal.” That all persons start out equal in life is a far cry from believing that society must seek to insure that everything is fair and equal.

Consider a game of marbles made to be fair and equal as determined by today’s Pablum pushing professors and politicians. If Little Johnny knocks Jimmy’s marble out of the circle, he must immediately return it to Jimmy and apologize for targeting him. To be equal, too, no one person should have more marbles than anyone else so the teacher will maintain control of the bags of marbles; making certain that each one has the same number, size and type. She will issue them out at recess and retrieve them when recess concludes. Any student who gathers pop bottles on Saturday morning (if this were possible) to buy his own marbles Saturday afternoon will have to give those to the teacher on Monday. The teacher then will divide them equally into the bags.

Sound ridiculous? Ask any elementary school child if they play any games at school where some kids win and some kids lose; where some get a reward and others get nothing. Since public schools are the purveyors of political correctness for the proletariat, they have created a society norm of fair and equal that can only be recreated in the real world  by militant methodologies such as what Karl Marx lovingly brought to the people of  Mat’ Rossija or Mother Russia.

The context in the statement All men are created equal and a precise reading of it makes it clear that all men are created, or begin their lives, as equal. In God’s sight, every person is His divine creation for whom His Son, Jesus Christ, suffered crucifixion for the redemption of all. It does not infer that all persons are to be equal in all things such as individual prosperity or achievement. Among the inalienable rights endowed upon His creation by God, Himself, is, as the Declaration of Independence describes it) the pursuit of happiness. It is not that we have the right to be happy but, rather free to seek our happiness through lawful endeavors. Everyone may be allowed to play marbles but only one wins.

If the Founding Fathers did not see a place for fairness and equality in achievement or prosperity, then from where does such an idea originate; and, more importantly, where does it lead? In the mid- 1800’s the nation clamored to understand and define the relationships between races and the immorality of slave ownership. President Lincoln did not attempt to make the case for an equality of mankind. Rather, he simply states that all slaves are to be free. They were not eligible to vote and many other measures of segregation remained for decades.

In the early 1900’s, the advent of workers’ unions battled for fair wages and in some respects, equality by job or function (except in the matters of race or sex). Inequalities were innumerable. The Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King and President Lyndon Johnson blurred the lines of historical fact. They interpreted the context of the Declaration in their attempt to justify a role for the government to enforce an equality of opportunity for all and subjectively applied a concept of equality and fairness in the strict sense unintended by the Founding Fathers. The unintended (or, at least, undeclared) consequences of the purposely ambiguous wording has opened a Pandora’s Box of liberal thought and social reform in the name of equality and fairness. I do not argue that everyone should not have an equal opportunity; but, that does not mean that I will ever have the gifts or skill to perform certain jobs and I should not expect that legislation will afford me that job regardless of my abilities. Dr. King and President Johnson would likely agree. Today, however, common sense and reason have left the room and are not expected to return anytime soon!

The institutions of higher learning, particularly government funded universities, the education assembly lines, tasked with processing through the teachers of the next generations, have been complicit in the promotion of everything equal and fair. Every student is a winner and every competition is for the fun of the play with no need to keep score. Never are there any losers.

There is one particularly glaring flaw in the No Losers world and that is – it creates a plethora of losers! All of those who truly achieved must lose their victory. The one who had the skill, patience and made the effort to be the best marble shooter ends up losing his marbles when everyone wins. The best and brightest, as sought by President Kennedy, become instead a nation of Tootles.

tootles-and-pan

When achievement and success are not rewarded and every person receives identical compensation, regardless of effort put forth; then eventually, all will gravitate to the lowest median effort. America can find itself becoming a nation of couch potato type undeserving welfare recipients who do only the minimum required to stay in the system.

Not very long ago, President Obama declared that there was no such thing as American Exceptionalism. In his view of the Great Society, he is correct. No longer need anyone try harder, study more and challenge the norm because there is no longer any reward for such effort. Why would Baskin Robbins need thirty-one flavors if everyone wants vanilla? One item on every menu in every restaurant that is identical to all others is all that is needed.  One car of the people as Hitler envisioned or a return to Henry Ford’s quip, ” People can get the  Model T in any color as long as its black.” (thequotepedia.com)

When we, as a nation, choose fair and equal, we set a course for mediocrity. Pride taken in one’s efforts and accomplishments is judged as out of step with society. Those nations who do inspire vision, reward effort and recognize excellence will soon hold all the marbles. Then, like Tootles, all we can do is cry, Peter, I’ve lost all my marbles!

 

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.

 

HH

ASL hard of hearing

         My deaf and hard of hearing friends and those who know American Sign Language (ASL) will recognize the sign above for the double H which means ‘Hard of Hearing’.  That sign is the one I use when communicating with the deaf to explain that I am hard of hearing though not completely deaf and it is one of the reasons I continue to try to learn ASL.

This morning was a bright and beautiful morning and I found myself at the pond at the back of our small farm, fishing. I was fishing and the fish were cooperating. Bass after bass seemed eager to take my hook. I catch and release because mostly, for me, fishing is a chance to talk to God.

From our house, the pond and the woods beyond offer a symphony of sound. On hot days or cool nights, you can, if you are not hard of hearing, listen to a complete symphony of nature in sonata form, the first movement being the stately croak of the frogs their allegro flow introducing the night song. Then comes the minuet – the nighttime dance of sounds. Being a distance away and hard of hearing makes me miss much of the minuet, particularly the alto and soprano sounds of nature. This morning, though, I was thinking about (and talking with God about) the fact that when I am at the pond, closer to the orchestra; I am able to hear more than when distance blurs the music. God showed me that the same is true when I long to hear from Him what it is that He is expecting of me. When I cannot hear His still small voice of encouragement or direction, often, I am too far away. When I find myself far from God, I always notice that it was me who moved, not Him.

I have had the joy, in the past, of owning hearing aids that open up so much more of the world than what I hear on a daily basis. Sadly, the cost of such devices precludes having them at times and it is then I wonder how much I am missing. Newer devices have the ability to open up in a kind of stereo when out in nature to pick up all the sounds. This morning, I wondered what kind of device do I need to hear God speak to me? Then I realized that it is His Word. By staying in it, studying and enjoying it, I hear better and I find myself closer.

What keeps me from hearing when distance is not the issue? Sometimes I can be right next to my wife and not be able to understand what she has said. If I cannot see her face and watch her lips move, I miss much of what she says. When there is a crowd and other background noises, I cannot hear what someone says to me. Sometimes I hear a sound but I cannot distinguish the words because there is too much busyness going on about me.

One of my physical issues that inhibits my hearing is damage to the small hairs of the ear canal. These small hairs are the sensory receptors. The doc tells me that it is through mechanotransduction that these hair cells detect movement. When that happens, the brain hears sound. The damage to my cells causes them to send a constant signal to my brain which is translated as a high pitched non-ending hum. I have two different pitches, one for each ear. Damage to these hair cells results in decreased hearing sensitivity and because they cannot regenerate, this damage is permanent. What is interesting is that, because they are damaged, they move continually. This continual movement generates the tinnitus and decreases my ability to hear.

How often, I wonder, is my inability to hear what God is trying to say to me caused by me being too busy doing whatever that may be good works? My busyness may be blocking my ability to hear what God is trying to say to me. Even when I am by the pond, if I am completely wrapped up in working with the horses or some other chore, I often do not hear any of the symphony going on all around me. I can be close enough. I can even have been spending time in God’s Word so I have my hearing aid; but, if I’m too busy, I’ll miss what He has to say to me.

So, there is my prescription for better hearing of what God wants to say to me. I need to get closer to Him. I need to be in His Word so that my hearing His voice is aided by the scripture and I need to stop the busyness of a Christian life and just listen.

How is your hearing?