We, I, Need a Charleston Moment

Like most Americans, I feel like the last couple of weeks have been something straight out of a dystopian novel.  It started with two officer involved shootings that immediately exposed the deep rifts in our society, race against race, group against group. The crime scene tape was barely up before the social media wars were in full swing.  The law enforcement profession I love and the heroic men and woman I’ve worked with my entire adult life were being maligned with blanket accusations of systemic racism and institutionalized cruelty.   You couldn’t turn on the TV or computer with an immediate blast of anger and division.  As a Christian and a police officer, I felt the intense internal struggle between lashing out in rage at all the idiots who know nothing about police work, my colleagues, or me, and the gentle tug of the Spirit to be silent and follow Him.  Rage and disillusionment were winning out.

Then Dallas happened.

At the height of the tensions, a hate-filled racist ambushed and assassinated five police officers and wounded seven more. A catastrophic fissure had been ripped through the soul of our country. So many families are suffering through the unimaginable loss.  The country and law enforcement community were rocked again.

As I prayed for the families of the fallen and Dallas PD, I was reminded of Charleston.  A little over a year ago the racial and social tensions seemed to be nearly as inflamed as today, the Ferguson Riots and Freddy Gray’s death still fresh in everyone’s memory.  At that time another deranged little racist named Dylan Roof, also hoping to start a race war, entered the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC, sat through a bible study and prayer, and then systematically slaughtered nine African American Christians.  As the details of the murders were released, it seemed that Roof’s plan of mass civil war might loom just around the corner. But something happened that Roof could have not counted on.  The nine victims, their families, and their community were actually Christians, true followers of Jesus Christ. The Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, who was one of the victims, had thoroughly saturated his congregation with the Word of God, and, as promised, it did not return empty.  Within twenty-four hours of his arrest, in a miraculous and astonishing move, the victim’s families stood before the murderer of their loved ones and publicly pronounced, “We forgive you.”

The wicked plans of more racial schisms, ever-increasing hatred, and orgies of violence evaporated like the foul vapor of Satan’s breath with three simple words and the Spirit behind them.  Charleston didn’t burn.  To the contrary, the people of Charleston rallied around those amazing families at that blessed church, and the city began the process of healing and reconciliation.

Now as our nation, friends, and neighbors are once again bombarded with the negative, warlike voices from what seems like all sides threatening to tear us apart, we need another Charleston moment—a jolt of Truth in the midst of chaos where the Christ-like actions and words can once again extinguish the division and hate.  And that can only come from Christians standing up and acting like, well, Christians, where faith and allegiance to Christ takes precedence over stirring discord and divisiveness over social media or in our personal lives.

Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31-32) and to bless those who curse you (Matthew 5:44).  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of neighborly love going on right now, especially in my own heart.  The war in my spirit is still fierce and quite dynamic at times. The lure to fight the voices of hate and rage with my own anger (cleverly disguised as righteous indignation) is a seductive thought, but the call of Jesus Christ requires that we surrender our own hurts, frustrations, and grievances at the foot of the Cross, regardless of what we feel or think about it.

The issues in our country are real and not likely to disappear any time soon. The wounds and anguish many feel right now are equally as real.  But perhaps, with God’s grace, we can defend what we know to be right and true without contributing to the madness that seems to be gripping the world right now.   Or, perhaps still, we can follow the template laid out for us by Jesus Christ and His followers in Charleston in dealing with those who have caused us harm— we could chose to speak some of the most difficult words in any language: “I forgive you.”

We need another Charleston moment.  I desperately need another Charleston moment.

 

 

Reflections of the 2016 Florida Christian Writers Conference

Last week, my son Justin and I were able to attend the Florida Christian Writers Conference (FCWC).10408976_10153839086320295_5314415994649472648_n It was the first time I had been back in over four years. For nearly a dozen years prior, the FCWC served as my yearly spiritual retreat—a time to refresh, connect with other writers, and focus on honing the craft. I had forgotten how important it is to get away and be with other like-minded people, all seeking to serve Christ through writing.

Since I last attended FCWC, Billie Wilson, who ran the conference for over twenty years, passed the torch to Eva Marie Everson and Mark Hancock. I have known Eva Marie and Mark as fellow writers for a long time, but it was my first look at the conference under their direction. They, and the entire staff, have really ushered in a new season for the FCWC, while keeping Billie’s vision for the conference intact. The conference was organized, packed full of incredibly talented writers and teachers, and really, really fun!

Robert Benson was the keynote speaker and was nothing short of amazing. His insights, humor, and passion for writing were infectious and inspirational. He challenged us to give our very best effort in every word, sentence, paragraph, and page.

I attended Brian Bird’s screenwriting class, where we studied the hero’s journey and dug deep into story. We broke down movie clips and discussed the power of each scene. He brought a fresh and innovative way to look at storytelling, whether you write screenplays or novels. We were also given the privilege of viewing some of his past work. If you ever get the opportunity to attend a class with Brian, please do. I came away with a new perspective on the writing life.

I was also blessed to reconnect with many old friends and make a few new ones, and I attended some really great workshops to sharpen the skills.

Probably the best part of the whole conference was spending time with my son, talking about writing and worshiping together. You can’t put a price on something like that. I will not let that much time go by again between conferences. As a matter of fact, Justin and I are already excited for next year’s FCWC. Hope to see you there!

21 Names

These are the names of the 21 Coptic Christians slaughtered by ISIS this week:

1. Milad Makeen Zaky
2. Abanub Ayad Atiya                                                  Coptic Christians
3. Maged Solaiman Shehata
4. Yusuf Shukry Yunan
5. Kirollos Shokry Fawzy
6. Bishoy Astafanus Kamel
7. Somaily Astafanus Kamel
8. Malak Ibrahim Sinweet
9. Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros
10. Girgis Milad Sinweet
11. Mina Fayez Aziz
12. Hany Abdelmesih Salib
13. Bishoy Adel Khalaf
14. Samuel Alham Wilson
15. Worker from Awr village
16. Ezat Bishri Naseef
17. Loqa Nagaty
18. Gaber Munir Adly
19. Esam Badir Samir
20. Malak Farag Abram
21. Sameh Salah Faruq

As best as I can tell, none of these 21 men were world leaders, or famous athletes, or movie stars, or immersed in wealth, prestige, or privilege. They were ordinary men from all walks of life, much like Jesus’ disciples, who shared a common bond that became their death sentence—a love for and faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Their last few minutes on this earth were recorded in a stylistic and yet utterly diabolical video, set against the surreal background of the Mediterranean Sea. Their Radical Islamic captors—decked out in appropriate black outfits that match perfectly with their charred souls—beheaded each of the men in an orgy of blood, violence, and hate.

While it’s incomprehensible to understand at times, the visceral hate we see worldwide for Jesus and those who follow Him should not surprise us. Jesus himself said: “If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated me first” and “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” Persecution against the Followers of Christ is certainly nothing new. Satan has been attempting to extinguish the voice of the Gospel from the moment Jesus rose from the tomb. Tertullian, a 2nd-century Church Father, once wrote: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” That Seed has sprouted and bloomed worldwide for two-thousand-years, driven by agents of persecution from the Roman Empire to those who claimed to represent the Church itself. But now those early inquisitors look like rank amateurs compared to the zealous demoniacs of ISIS, who are slicing and burning a bloody swath through the peoples of Iraq and Syria.

Ironically, the ISIS ghouls don’t even realize they are actually fulfilling, however unwittingly, the biblical prophecies of John 16:2 and Revelation 20:4 among others: “[T]he time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God” and “And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God” (Emphasis mine).

What many people don’t realize is that these 21 men could have saved their own lives. All they had to do was renounce Jesus and convert to Islam. But that was impossible for them. They could not turn their backs or their hearts on their Lord who had given his own life for them. God, like He did with the original disciples, transformed these ordinary men into extraordinary giants of faith, so that they did not love their lives so much to shrink from death (Rev. 12:11).

In time, their names will most likely be forgotten by the world and probably even by most Christians, though their courage and faith in the face of unspeakable evil should not be. Their martyrdom should serve as a clarion call to all who claim Christ as Savior to hold fast to the faith no matter the cost, no matter the threat. It should also serve as an omen for things to come from the ever encroaching darkness in this present age.

On that day which Satan meant for so much evil, we know that Jesus turned it into a victorious celebration in Heaven, crowning the 21 with a Victor’s Crown and embraced them with the words every believer yearns to hear, “Well done good and faithful Servant.”

Those 21 names are now forever written into The Lamb’s Book of Life.

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation from 1789

I’ve posted George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation from 1789. It’s an eye-opener for those who have been taught that Founding Fathers wanted a purely secular government, devoid of any acknowledgment of or dependence upon God.  Can you imagine any politician submitting this today?   

Have a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving!  Hope you enjoy this and let me know what you think:

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.” – George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789

Dads Matter

I’ve posted an interesting video commentary from Molotov Mitchell about the movie The Place Beyond the Pines, starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper.  The movie depicts the devastation that can be wreaked on children, especially boys, when fathers are absent, weak, or abusive.  I found the piece both challenging and convicting, as well as true to life from my experiences as a police officer.  

After years of continually witnessing the damage done by absent and/or abusive fathers, I came to this conclusion about my own life—my work, books, and other accomplishments will all be washed away by time, but my children and their children’s children will remember and bear the consequences of my decisions, actions, or inaction as a father.  That’s a sobering and downright frightening realization.  I do confess that I certainly haven’t always lived up to that ideal. But God’s grace is good, and He is the ultimate Father and Healer. His grace can bless us and teach us even in our mistakes. However, I would caution young fathers to the prioritize life well and be there for your families.  Generations depend on it.  Let me know what you think of the clip.  God bless! 

http://www.wnd.com/2013/05/a-hollywood-film-shows-consequences/

 

My Summer Vacation at Parris Island

Thirty years ago today (May 10th, 1983) I arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina.  I was unceremoniously greeted with a Drill Instructor’s boot to my hindquarters, which seemed to remain permanently affixed there for the next three months of my summer vacation.  I was not a Christian or a particularly religious young man when I arrived, but I did soon learn that the anti-Christ was alive and well and masquerading at the time under the name of one Sgt. Kirkland—USMC.

Sgt. Kirkland liked me, I think. At least he took a particular interest in me, which is a bad thing on the island.  He often said, as he was thrashing me about, that I was funny and entertaining.  His appreciation of my often ill-timed snarky comments and facial expressions faded quickly when he caught me one day mocking him and doing drill instructor imitations behind his back.  As fate would have it, he caught me when we were out at ICT (Individual Combat Training)—a two week stint in the marshes of Parris Island where we lived in our bivouac shelters and were constantly on the move, immersed in military combat training.  At least that was the official explanation of ICT.  In reality, ICT provided the seclusion necessary for the drill instructors to increase the torture and to field test their most fiendish schemes—the swampland swallowing up even the most robust recruit’s scream.

Well aware that my own death might very well lie before me, I braced for the sure beating that was coming my way.  Sgt. Kirkland surprised me, though, when he announced in front of the entire platoon and our company commander that if I could make him laugh, there would be no punishment.  Having nothing to lose, I gave it my best shot. I suppose with the crystal clarity of hindsight I should have picked any other drill instructor to mock that day. I had practiced them all and had plenty of material to pick from.  But with Sgt. Kirkland standing before me, I just couldn’t resist.  I had the opportunity to send this one belligerent jab his way.  So I took it.  I launched into a full Sgt. Kirkland rant—his voice, his mannerisms, and his quotes.

I was good, quite good if I do say so myself.  Sgt. Kirkland thought so too, as he laughed so hard I thought he would pass out.  For a fleeting moment I thought he might actually honor his promise.  But no such luck with the spawn of Satan.  As soon as the company commander left our camp, Sgt. Kirkland went nose-to-nose with me, his Smokey tapping on my forehead.  Doom crested the horizon.

You could usually tell the difference when the drill instructors were just faking mad or were really mad; that being said, Sgt. Kirkland was in a psychotic frenzy, frothing and all.  I had really stepped in it.  I did pushups, sit-ups, side-straddle-hops (jumping jacks), bends and thrust, and repeated the list until well after everyone else bedded down.  I was finally allowed to go to my tent near midnight.  In the unknown early morning hours, my tent was kicked down and me and my innocent tent mate were beaten and dragged around in circles in the dirt.  I was too exhausted to react.

“The ICT Monster strikes again!” the foul beast cried out in a voice remarkably similar to Sgt. Kirkland’s.  We had been warned that there was a monster in the swamp—the ICT monster—that would randomly attack without provocation.  As elusive as the Yeti, the creature would thump poor unsuspecting recruits and disappear into the night.

In the remaining days of ICT, Sgt. Kirkland (and the ICT monster) unleashed a reign of terror at every opportunity.  Whenever we would stop or take a break, I was exercising at the front of the platoon while they got to eat and drink water.  The ICT monster continued his night visitations.  On our last day of ICT, I was jogging in place with my rifle over my head and my backpack on.  My platoon was eating lunch and enjoying the show, each person just glad it wasn’t them.  Black dots clouded my vision and sweat stung my eyes.  The brutal summer heat bore down on me. The relentless pressure had broken me.  I staggered and the world turned up-side-down as I crashed headfirst into the dirt.  I awoke to my platoon mates pouring water from their canteens on my face.  Sgt. Kirkland stood just behind them, grinning.

“Yo, Mynheir!  You’re looking good, buddy.  Looking good!”

Victory was his.

One in Custody–Boston PD

Job well done to all the cops–federal, state, and local–who relentlessly pursued
this animal until he was in custody.  The terrorists don’t seem to get some simple realities about Americans.  We have our political differences and some serious problems in our country right now, but when they attack, maim, and murder our innocent civilians–like on 9/11 and Boston–we don’t cower in fear, which is the goal of “terrorism.” We get pissed.  Then the spankings begin.  May God bless the victims of the
bombing, the officers killed and injured, and the many lives affected by this
tragedy.

Abortion’s Slippery Slope

I’ve posted a story about the trial of Kermit Gosnell in Pennsylvania. While we rightly label Adam Lanza a monster for butchering innocent children in a school room in Newtown, there’s barely a peep from the media or anyone else about this abortionist ghoul who ran a little shop of horrors in Philadelphia, killing at least five times as many helpless victims with his bare hands as Lanza did with a rifle.  Gosnell (I refuse to put the Dr. in front of his name) committed his atrocities for many years and the details are horrific and disturbing.  I hope most people are sickened and repulsed by the actions of a man who would perpetrate such unspeakable evil on babies.  But if we’re honest and recognize the pure evil of his actions against those children, why isn’t it just as evil when he did exactly the same thing to children in the womb?  After all, the babies he’s on trial for murdering were only a few minutes old.  Had he finished the job in the womb, it would have been perfectly moral–according to some–and even a constitutionally protected right to kill them prior to their birth.  And we really wonder why the value of life seems so cheap in our country anymore?   From Newtown to Philadelphia, our children’s lives are precious and deserving of respect and protection.    I do pray for the soul of our nation.

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2013/04/10/media-Ignore-100-Born-Alive-Babies-NeckSnipped

My Interview on the Biography Channel

I’ve posted a link to an interview I did with the Biography Channel on a homicide case from several years ago.  The clip is just a few minutes of the production.  Evidently it’s an hour long program called My Evil Sister (nice). They were supposed to tell me when it was to air, but I guess that didn’t happen.  It was on last night and is on again tonight at 3:00 a.m., but I’m not staying up for it.  I can’t stand to listen to my own voice.  They did have some actors filling in some of the scenes for dramatic effect.  The guy playing me had a full head of hair.  I guess that’s what happens in show biz. No one likes a bald detective unless it’s Sipowicz from the old NYPD Blue.  Anyway, at some point I’ll watch the whole thing.  The clip is interesting. Hope you enjoy it.

The Empty Tomb

I borrowed this article from my friend Eric Mickley’s FB page.  It’s quite fitting since we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection tomorrow.  I like this article because it helps define what “faith” really means.  I was once accused by a friend of h…aving a “blind faith.” But as the article discusses and I explained to my friend, a true faith is a reasoned faith.  We don’t—or at least shouldn’t—blindly follow anyone or anything.  We should be as the Bereans and examine “the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so (ESV).”  I’ve experienced true miracles (my son’s healing), and I’ve investigated many points of evidence, like that of the empty tomb and the disciples who willingly went to their deaths proclaiming they had seen the risen Christ. No one would do that for a lie.  There are a multitude of other confirmations that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of Mankind, but the empty tomb is one of the most powerful.  I pray that God blesses each of you during this Easter/Passover season.  Enjoy the link.