Can I Get a Little Cheese with that Whine?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


[i] 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

[ii] Matthew 10:29-31 NIV

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

[iv] Matthew 6:34 NIV

Front Steps and Back Patios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Path

a little bit of time for some introspection and a chance to talk with God about life, love and the meaning of the universe

A walk along a mountain ridge outside of Keezletown, Virginia on an early morning recently allowed me a little bit of time for some introspection and a chance to talk with God about life, love and the meaning of the universe.

As I looked across at the hills in the distance and then glanced down the path in front of me, I was struck by how barren it looked. The brown and dead look of winter seemed to hang over the path like a dreary curtain pulled over the sunshine of the blue morning sky. There was no sign of green life anywhere… or so it seemed.

It seemed odd, it was late March and April was only a few days away, where was any sign of spring? I had to stop on the path, quit my focus on just moving forward and standstill to look more closely. Every brown twig that looked so bleak in passing actually held a small bud of a new leaf about to sprout. Within the next two weeks, this same path will be bursting forth in green and already some signs of pink on the cheery blossom trees were there for those who stoppped long enough to see them.

Life is like the path I was on… there are times our path seems so bleak, so dreary and there are no signs of new life. Down right depressing! But then we stop and we look a little more closely and sure enough, there are signs God is turning the world a little at a time and the change of seasons is still happening even when we fail to see it. I was blessed God allowed me a minute to stop on the path and notice the hope of spring. Maybe, I’ll be a little quicker to stop more often and take in a fesh breath of springtime to push away some of the dark winter has left behind.

Line of Duty

Keep building your foundation, keep strengthening to be survival strong, keep training, keep practicing and preparing, and NEVER FOLD.”

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

Jesus, too, likes to spend time with us in the garden… Don’t ever confuse inactivity with wasting 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!)

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

pocket watch quarter

 

Habakkuk 3:17-19

New King James Version (NKJV)

A Hymn of Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Note: All Scripture references NKJV

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

A small metal sign… drove home to me the hundreds of years of sacrifice, grief, pain and pride, (yes, pride) that the sign represents.

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.