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”

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.

 

Garden Time

This morning I had the pleasure of reading a short devotional by Dave Branon titled, “Come Sit a Spell” in the July 2, 2016 Our Daily Bread. In it, he related arriving as a child with his family at his grandparents’ home in rural West Virginia, something to which I can relate very well! He said that his grandmother would meet them at the door and encourage them to come on in and sit a spell – take time to talk and get re-acquainted or just caught up on what was new in life. David related the story of time Jesus spent with Zacchaeus, over dinner at his home to help them get to know one another and it changed Zacchaeus’ life for an eternity!

Today was our family reunion and there were family there that I have not seen in a very long time! There were members of our family there that I have never met before today; because, some of them were not even born when we had our last reunion! And, for the most part, we all did a lot of sittin’ a spell, getting to re-kindle lost connections and make new ones. My brother Rod was celebrating his 70th birthday. He and I talked some about him being the oldest blood member of the family present. Currently living, but not able to be with us today, is an uncle and an aunt that were not able to attend. That pair, a brother and a sister are the last remaining blood relations of our father’s 3 brothers and 2 sisters. We talked about how so quickly so many of the layers seemed to have peeled away. As we would look out at the young children and families there, we could see how the family would eventually carry-on as others take their turn at the top layer!

I couldn’t help but remember Dave Brannon’s homily about building relationship through time together.  Often times, Jesus would wake early and spend precious time with His Father in prayer and solitude. Other times, Jesus would take His disciples into the garden and there share with them private thoughts and cares or concerns for them and with them.  And then, my mind traveled back about half a century; when I had a chance to spend time with my maternal grandparents. One summer in particular, when I was staying there alone for a few weeks, I got to spend precious time in the garden with my grandfather.Delbarton

It wasn’t at all like the Garden of Gethsemane or the Mount of Olives; rather, with my grandfather – my Papaw, (I never once called him grandfather), our time in the garden was a large patch of ground that held really only three things besides the dirt. The three things were rocks, snakes and potatoes.  I was really enjoying my time, throwing aside the rocks, watching out or the Copperheads, and digging the potatoes. As a boy of probably 8 or 9, I was feeling full grown being out there working alongside this man I loved so very much, who I still do. That summer, I also helped him build a garage – I know now how much real help I was; but, for him to allow me to stand on that scaffolding with him, pounding nails into the boards, I was having the time of my life.  My aunt, who had children my age and lived near-by, seemed like she was hurt that I would rather spend my time digging potatoes with my Papaw then come to her house to play with my cousins. No doubt I loved my cousins – particularly one impish ball of fun – Melanie – but, time with Papaw was too precious to miss even a second! Going to the post office to check his box, riding in that old red Ford sedan of his with the red interior (and I remember having to fasten-up the red seat belts) was incredible because this time, I was in the front seat with him – just me!! Time was so critical. When my brothers or cousins were around, I had to share my papaw and this particular summer, for most of those days, he was all mine and I wasn’t going to miss a second!Elk Creek Bridge

Our Heavenly Father feels that way about us, too, you know. He wants to spend time with us like He spent with Jesus during His time on Earth, in quiet solitude, sharing the cares, joys, concerns and plans for the day. Jesus, too, likes to spend time with us in the garden. Maybe it is time in a quiet place like among the ancient olive trees outside of Jerusalem or a restful spot near our own Jerusalem. It is there where time is spent listening to His Word that He left for us or attending to that still small voice. Maybe its digging potatoes out of the ground, putting them in the coal bucket, that we have to drag along some days, while we watch out for serpents and toss rocks out of our path. No matter the location or even the circumstance, what is important is the precious time we share with Him building our relationship, getting to know each other more. Summertime sometimes allows us some quiet moments just for sittin’ a spell. Don’t ever confuse inactivity with wasting time. There is a mountain range of difference – if you’re truly blessed, somewhere in your youth you traveled such a range – mine was the Alleghany’s, or down home they called them those West Virginia Hills.

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

pocket watch quarter

 

Habakkuk 3:17-19

New King James Version (NKJV)

A Hymn of Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Note: All Scripture references NKJV

Of Trains, Radios, Fishing Lures and Time…

Dad's pocket watch    As of this moment, my third daughter is in with her OB checking on her health and the health of a granddaughter I have not met yet. Her husband, my son-in-law went to jail today. I’m glad he did. It was his first day in his career as a Deputy Sheriff/Corrections Officer! Earlier today, I had a conversation with a fellow who, following in his grandfathers, fathers and uncle’s footsteps, he collects toy trains. He pays top dollar for toy train sets that used to circle every Christmas tree or glimmer in the hopes of little boys as they decided what Lionel train they wanted for themselves. Yet, he worries because as collectable as the old trains are, there is a growing fear among collectors that if the interest does not re-emerge for the small gauge track with the real looking train cars, they will be stuck with thousands of miles of track that lead nowhere.

Then there was a conversation I had over the weekend with a man who buys up old “Ham” radio equipment, not so much for re-furbishing because with the new digital markets the newer radios are smaller, lighter, cheaper, better sound, overall quality and focus on replacement not repair. So why buy up the old stuff? A sense of nostalgia for when times were, in B.C. terminology (before computers) slower, calmer, and even quieter brings those who remember those times looking for a connection to the past. There were times when people on “Ham” radio would Ragchew – in fact, yours truly has a certificate to show that I am a bona-fide ‘Ragchewer’. To prevent questions of my oral hygiene, I’ll explain that to ragchew means to spend time on the radio talking for fairly lengthy periods to someone they do not know, who they will probably never meet and may never talk to again. So taken were they with their long conversations about practically anything and most often nothing at all, that they would exchange post cards, called QSL cards – QSL being the abbreviated Morse Code for ‘confirm contact.’ They usually include the date and time of the conversation, which is recorded for posterity!    The card to the right is an example, showing the author hard at work. QSL

What has become of those who build a small city with mountains and tunnels, with curves and bends that bring the roaring train across the plywood over top of the billiard table which was used for at least two weeks after the Christmas it was dragged into the house, but now proudly holds the Lionel set including the water tower and depot? Where are the all-night ragchewers that are also running phone-patch traffic for maritime mobiles (ships at sea) or missionaries in the heart of the Amazon, even for scientific expeditions at South America?

The phone patch traffic has gone the way of the local telephone operator with the advent of cellular phones, sat-phones, internet and SKYPE. Most “Hams” these days are techies that work only 2 meters or 440 MHz on repeater systems. Thankfully many are volunteering on Tornado Spotter teams and rescue and emergency communications back-up. Now the all-nighter is spent on FACEBOOK or IM-ing someone with texts about the steak they had for dinner. Sure, I know that ragchewing conversations were never going to be the upcoming agenda for MENSA discussions but, come-on… rather than go to some recent FACEBOOK or texting sites; I can get a more intelligent conversation on a Saturday night at Wal-Mart with the unarmed manikin that doubles as a security camera!

The leisure time activities of old have been replaced by twenty-four hour news, text alerts for whatever style of news you desire, computer games that will allow you to land on Mars in virtual reality or draw down on Zombies that are dragging their way across your 87 inch plasma screen with surround-sound so realistic the neighbors have called the cops twice thinking there was a real gun battle at your house and your closest neighbor is two farms down the road about three-quarters of a mile! This is quite different than the good ol’ days of uncle and nephew leaning into the crackling noise of the speaker to try to make out the call sign of that maritime mobile that was looking for a phone patch into Ohio. Gone are the days when, just before the ‘test pattern’ came on to the black and white TV screen there was the footage of a fluttering American flag and background music playing the Star Spangled Banner as the station signed-off for the night. It was night, time for rest to not be haunted by the cable news network talking heads going over the same discussion they have continued nightly for more than a week!test pattern

Oh, yes; I love to be able to pull out my Droid phone and check email as I wait for the plane to take-off or jump on to FACEBOOK and see my grandchildren’s most recent pictures. And at home… the Night Before Christmas might end up re-written “And mother on FACEBOOK and me with my Kindle, had just checked out a NETFLIX film about reindeer…” As much as the nostalgia side of my brain yearns for the simpler, quieter times; I love the electronic toys, the ease of communicating and the instant everything that the Internet brings. So what is the answer to the conundrum?

It must, and I would underscore must come down to Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” If ever there was a time in our world’s history that people must be admonished to “Be still” it is now. The whirling sounds of computer fans, the clacking of keyboards, the incessant ringing of the cellular phones all bring a cacophony of noise that can drown out the soft sounds of the Holy Spirit directing your heart. So how do we find that delicate balance between the quiet space with the Spirit and thriving in a breakneck paced world that can be exciting and full of great things?

The answer lies in the remainder of verse ten of Psalm forty-six. God states, “I will be exalted above the nations, I will be exalted above the earth.” If we truly allow ourselves to see God as higher than any President or King; if we truly see Him as above anything in nature, we will find a way to give Him the time  due to Him. I dislike using the following example but let us assume for this one analogy that ,whoever is the President of the United States at the time this happens is THE one President in all history, or yet to come, that you would like to talk to… If the President of the United States calls you and says, “It is very important that we meet every morning for the next two weeks for about thirty minutes each morning…” Chances are you or I would move everything else off our schedules to make certain we were free for that time period. Well, the Sovereign God, Creator and Master of the Universe has told you that He desires to have that thirty minutes with you every morning for the next two weeks (as a start). Will you being willing to at least put down your sports section of the newspaper or turn off Fox and Friends for thirty minutes for the Master Ruler of the Universe?

The best part about ‘giving up’ time like that for God is that YOU are the one that will receive the blessing for it. You will come away refreshed, encouraged, and yes, even the rest of your day will change because you took the opportunity to spend quality time with God.

Someone mentioned to me that, they agree with taking the time with God but, they have their devotional material on their computer. Well, if that is where you want to start reading it, Okay; but after you have read it, switch that screen off and let the Holy Spirit talk to your spirit for the rest of the time. You won’t regret it and, believe it or not, the computer switch will allow you to turn it back on again when you need it.

“Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted above the nations. I will be exalted above earth.” – Not enough ‘time’ to get quiet with God? The One who created Time, will give you all you need. If you cannot find a way to set the time aside yourself, God may do it for you and it may not really be ‘convenient’ if He has to choose what will make you slow down and listen.

 

A Clash of Cultures

Riggs Ministry Minute: When there’s only a minute for ministry   

www.docriggs.com  

 

Most of us might be surprised at the vast number of sub-cultures within our own culture. Some would consider the point so off-handedly that, even if these subcultures exist, all that is necessary is to be aware of them, nothing more. We certainly do not need another genre for which we must be politically correct. Already the current lists have made it to the far edges of ad-nauseum. Why belabor yet another category that seeks to be recognized, romanticized, eulogized, and deified?

This, however, is a culture that has been with us since the beginning of our great country, indeed throughout the history of civilization. Yet, the American version of this culture is one that does not seek recognition. Most of the time, this culture prefers to be unnoticed. A simple tip of the hat in recognition of their sacrifice is enough because there is little our supra-culture can do. Perhaps the only way to benefit this culture is to keep the virtue of our American culture at its very best.

Regrettably, I have been as little mindful of this sub-culture as most others, at least until recently. Recent events have driven home to me their existence. It was not in some grandiose presentation that I was pricked at my conscience, nor was it at some hall of heritage that I was alerted to their presence. It was, of all things, a small sign in the parking lot of a grocery store. I had never seen such a sign before and unless any American has a chance to go shopping at a PX or BX (post or base exchange) on a military installation, you will probably never see one yourself. A small metal sign that drove home to me the hundreds of years of sacrifice, grief, pain and pride, (yes, pride) that the sign represents.

The sign simply read: “Reserved Parking Gold Star Families” and reading it I was struck with such a sense of astonishment. I was astounded that I had never given so much as a passing thought to the thousands of families that carry on in day to day life, after the ceremonies, after the condolences, after the cards and visits have stopped. The ‘Gold Star’ families, those who have lost someone in combat, keep on with life, with shopping at the PX, with bills and car repairs and every day with a hole in their heart where a loved one, a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine lives now as a memory.

Praise God for Gold Star Families and may we be reminded of them every day. When we are, may we ask God to bless them as they carry on, living a life Reserved for Gold Star Families.

(For more information about the history behind the Gold Star, follow the link to Gold Star Mothers)

Our family proudly displays a ‘Blue Star’ emblem in our front window and a similar decal on my wife’s car. Praise God that it is now a Blue Star and if God should ordain that it ever be Gold, may we honor the work of these proud families with our own.

Preying for Each Other

RIGGS MINISTRY MINUTE: When there’s only a minute for ministry. www.docriggs.com 16 August 2012

Yesterday morning I took our dogs out for their walk and as I returned I saw this lady sitting on our garage door. As if she were deep in her morning meditations, she sat motionless waiting for her prey to get within reach of those long front claw-like arms.

According to Wikipedia the general type of mantises are “ambush predators. They camouflage themselves and stand perfectly still. Then they just wait for their prey to stray too near. When a target does get close enough, the mantis then  strikes  at remarkable speed, in fractions of the time it takes people to blink. Some ground and bark species, however, pursue their prey. Prey items are caught and held securely with grasping, spiked forelegs. The praying mantis usually holds its prey with one arm between the head and thorax, and the other on the abdomen. Then, if the prey does not resist, the mantis will eat it alive. However, if the prey does resist, the mantis will eat its head first, and then carry on with the body in pieces.”[i]

If you are a regular reader of Ministry Minute first, Thank You! Second, you are no longer surprised get a somewhat different approach to ministry than perhaps with some devotional reading you have done!

The praying mantis got me thinking. I wonder how often prayer requests or prayer chains are more about spreading some good gossip more than they are about really praying for the person. Before long you might have someone prey-ing for you rather than praying for you! Now, before anyone begins to speculate, “No, I have not recently been the subject of such (of which I am aware). I’m just thinking out loud here.” The Apostle Paul had a concern for those in the first century church that they were falling in to the snare of gossip. In his letter to young Pastor Timothy, he speaks of those who have cast off what they first believed and “…they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.”

You see, the praying mantis first camouflages itself and remains perfectly still. Gossip is the same way, camouflaged as concern for the person of whom they are about to share some juicy piece of information as a ‘prayer request.’ Then, the mantis, once it has its prey in its claws two things can happen based on the action of the trapped prey. If it doesn’t resist, it is eaten alive. Perhaps if a person who is gossiped against doesn’t speak out against the lies, they are consumed by the gossip about them. Perhaps their ministry is torn apart and cannot continue. If the prey does resist, the mantis bites off its head to stop the resistance. If the gossip analogy is accurate, then the target of the gossip, if they speak out and defend themselves, they may be cut off at the head.  Idle gossip becomes vindictive slander with a purpose to destroy that which it has targeted. Gossip is death to a ministry.

Paul was concerned about such behavior and we should be also. Be on the look-out for praying that is really preying. Speak only good one for another in order to build up and not tear down. The praying mantis is cute from a distance and you can even hold it. The little fellow just seems scared but if you could see its face…

Hebrews 12:12

“Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down and the feeble knees.”


[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantis  accessed 15 August 2012

Big Enough

Riggs Ministry Minute: When there is only a minute for ministry

Rev. Ross L. Riggs, DMin ~ “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” 1 Peter 3:15

BIG ENOUGH

The precept, “there are no atheists in foxholes” may have been said by celebrated war correspondent Ernie Pyle, Chaplain William Cummings with a sermonette at the Battle of the Bulge or other possible war-time philosophers. Whoever it was, we owe them our thanks. It states aphoristically what perhaps escaped us by its simplicity that: When everything around us is totally out of our control, we long for someone or something that is bigger than us, able to restore order to the chaos! It is not until we come to grips with the truth of our own vulnerability to any number of external (and even internal) forces that we realize our neediness.

I was reminded of this by a letter I received from my son during his first week at Army basic training. During their first chapel service after an intensely grueling week, the platoon found they were unable to even get into the chapel. It was filled to overflowing; so… being the good, though neophyte, soldiers that they were, they adapted and had a Bible study instead. Two soldiers were saved by the grace of God. This first week had taught them that they needed something or someone bigger than themselves. Daniel, too, has found solace in scripture reading that he had not known before. By alluding to the statement by Mr. Pyle, or whomever; I do not doubt the sincerity or the efficacy of these soldiers’ prayers for salvation. My observation is simply that, an observation.  I believe the Lord gave Paul a thorn in the flesh for two reasons, the first to remind him that he needed someone greater than himself to get through the days and the second, because he had not given Paul a wife!

Now, wait, before you throw rocks my way… (You know you smiled at that right?) But that is not exactly what I meant. The realization came to me just before I was to get married that suddenly I had the responsibility to care for this human being that I loved for the rest of my life and that I would be held responsible for how well I did that, by God! The feeling of inadequacy was matched four more times in such a strong epiphany; each time that I held a brand new baby for whom I was responsible. In the early years, that feeling was so overwhelming that I did a Jonah and ran from the responsibility. I tried to not think about that day when YHWH would demand of me an accounting for how well I had or had not fulfilled my responsibilities as husband and father. I am ashamed of my initial failures and I praise God for His grace and mercy.

Each and every human being on this earth must believe in something. If they claim to be atheists then they believe more in the non-theology of Karl Marx than the Word of God. The god of this world has blinded their eyes to the truth, but still they believe in something.

 

Atheists shoving nothing in your face

 

 

“Father Mulcahy” of MASH played by William Christopher was once counseling a young man who was afraid that since he had survived his wounds, God would require him to take the vow and become a priest as he promised he would while in his foxhole begging God to get him through the ordeal. The good “Father” assured him that God understood and that “If everyone took the vow as they had promised in a moment of danger, it would be as if the priesthood had a population explosion!” He regretted his analogy shortly thereafter.

Peter required of us that we be always ready to respond when asked why we have hope; when all around us seems hopeless. That is a wonderful command. But I cannot help but wonder, for me and for Christians I know, in a time of crisis would someone who doesn’t know Christ look at us and see that we have hope? Would we be wringing our hands and ‘oh woe is me-ing’ along with everyone else? If we were in that foxhole, would the non-believer next to us be able to turn to us and ask, “Why are you so calm? What do you know that I don’t? What do you believe in?” God has given us an instinct of fear when we are in danger. That is a tool He gave us to help us stay alive. But to fear and fret uncontrollably without seeking the peace God offers, that is sin.

Everybody believes in something. What do you believe?

Would you pray with me between now and mid-September that as Daniel faces this time of stress and testing that he would find strength in God’s Word and that he would be ready to give a reason for the hope within him should he be asked?

The Need for Phylacteries

Riggs Ministry Minute: For when there’s only a minute for ministry              Rev. Ross L. Riggs, D. Min.       

True North Ministries   www.docriggs.com

6 May 2012

Immediately I begin with an explanation to our Jewish friends, particularly any orthodox worshippers of YHWH. My writing is not intended to mock or to give less importance to the use of, or the teaching concerning the Tefillin. In actuality, I hope to show how the concept behind the wearing of phylacteries (and the prayer time attached to it) is most needed in our hectic world today. Anyone with an interest in learning the specifics of their history, with what they are made and how they are applied may enjoy a visit to: www.Jewishencyclopedia.com. Actually, my path to where I rise at 3 a.m. to write this includes several stops along the way. I will mention only two. The first is an overseas flight where, as we approached Israel’s coastline with the new day’s sun greeting us, the gentleman sitting next to me took a phylactery from his luggage and began the slow process of donning it. I watched in ignorance and later read to understand. My second stop was just recently in the home of dear friends, the wife in her upper 80’s, the husband just into his 90’s. She explained a conversation she would have with my son, Daniel, before he leaves in a few weeks for the Army. This dear friend is a devout Catholic and her story is an off-shoot of that faith!

Both my friend who wishes to counsel Daniel and this stranger aboard an intercontinental flight depend on a similar interaction between man (a person) and God. My friend’s message is that we must, for a minimum of five minutes per day, stop completely what we are doing and remove all thoughts from our mind except that Jesus is all around us. She went on… “You don’t have to say anything”… just be still, waiting on God to speak to you. You will feel it perhaps when silent, an answer, a quiet peace, an incomprehensible feeling that you just received an affirmation. The key is to be silent and allow God to speak. A well-rehearsed verse is Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted among the earth.” (KJV)

This is where the phylacteries make sense. The two ‘boxes’ with scripture in them are held on to the forehead and left arm of the intercessor with a leather cord that is attached by a precisely tied knot. One represents praying with your entire mind, the other with all your heart (it is close in proximity to the heart). Here is where it truly hit home for me. The remainder of the cord is then wrapped several times around the left hand. It is not to just wrap up extra cord, it is to occupy the hand that otherwise would find a way to busy itself, even while the mind and heart are trying to commune with God. Certainly there is much more to all of this, the kosher aspects of each part of the phylactery is amazing, down to the way in which the threads are made. So please, this is just to make a point, not to teach the wonderful intricacies of the phylactery prayer model.

This is the theological anthropology (or Christian anthropology) with a smattering of pneumatology[i]   for the divinity students out there. God interacting with man. What is so incredible about the communing between the all-powerful, supreme ruler of the universe who chooses to not only talk and share with us; He chooses to patiently wait for us since we are often too busy to pray. So, God waits. He desires a relationship and we desperately need the direction and the peace we can receive by praying and studying God’s Word.

I desire to have my mind focused, my heart tuned and my hands kept from the distractions of life so I can more often and more clearly, hear that still small voice that brings about a peace that only God can give.


[i] The study of the Holy Spirit, His interactions in the world and within the believer