The Cops

We see the cops in the media often lately.

What are they usually doing?

Beating someone up, choking them… Sometimes killing them.

I’m sure that bothers you like it bothers me. We need a new mode of thinking and training for police. They cannot go beyond what the law allows.

I mean, pulling a gun out and emptying the bullet chambers as a suspect flees – just because you feel unsafe, this is not acceptable. These policemen should be tried for murder and permanently removed from law enforcement – period.

But let me tell you something else… Something you already know…

Putting our law enforcement officials in harm’s way in today’s culture is a lot like putting our young men in Vietnam back in the ’60’s and 70’s – the enemy is all around them. Families including children were all part of the war effort. You had no idea if some little girl was offering a gift or a bomb wrapped in a package. Crazy, right? Crazy war. How could entire families be part of that war against American-supported, pro-democratic South Vietnam?

Before we look down on the Vietnamese people – let’s get real for a moment. So you’re telling me that Vietnamese people who were in support of their homeland but on the communist side, were crazy for not remaining neutral bystanders? Can you imagine Russians invading the USA? Are you really naive enough to think we would all remain “neutral” innocent bystanders and let the uniformed soldiers fight their own battles?

But I digress from my main point – that we need to gain some kind of understanding of what is going on in the minds of today’s law enforcers just as we understand the psychology of our anxious and frustrated soldiers in Vietnam a few decades ago.

It is not only understandable that police officers sometimes lose their senses and misuse their authority – it can almost be expected when in a very hostile neighborhood.

“HOOD” LIVING

I have many friends that live in some of the most dangerous “hoods” in America. In fact, in the 1990s I put my money where my mouth was, and moved into an area right next to a “hood” so that I could relate to them in a real way.

So much to say here – wow. It changes your perspective to say the least. First of all, it was no longer them but “us” in my mind when I thought about gangs in the hood; inner-city living; whatever you want to call it.

Secondly there is no denying that when an block or street or neighborhood begins to grow in violence and dangerous activity, everyone loses. Property values go down, businesses leave, urban decay begins its cancerous spread. And everyone suffers for it.

I don’t have any answers. But if the only time an authority figure is seen in most “hoods” is when they are sent in to stop a serious situation. It’s only natural to distrust them and the image of what begins to develop in the minds of kids and adults in the hood.

If you never see your daddy around unless he is very angry, well of course that relationship is going to break down and unravel. Of course both sides will be totally polarized. Of course police will not trust anyone in that area and of course no one on that area will trust the police.

REBEL NATION

When I was growing up it was in vogue to be a rebel. Smokey and the Bandit came out in 1977. It was an obvious caracature of the law as arrogant and pompous idiots who can’t fight their way out of a paper bag. But man, was it entertaining!

Then Star Wars came out that same year. Who were the bad guys? The Imperial Empire – and the bad guys? The Rebellion! Luke Skywalker was a rebel! We love us our rebels!

Even the popular cop shows on today – the only cool cop is the one who ends up fighting cops himself!

It’s American to rebel, dag-nabbit!

In fact, that’s how we got here in the first place right? Rebelling against our Englush authorities in the 1600’s. Yes, we understand rebellion quite well, thank you! “Taxation without representation? No thank you, Pappa Brit! Toss them tea bags in the Boston harbor boys!”

Look at Westerns – the lone gunfighter riding out into the horizon with his six guns packin’! I can hear that ‘rebel’ played by Bruce Willis in the “Die Hard” movies yelling at the cops right now.

So you see, we sometimes reap what we sow.

OUR HYPOCRISY

We Americans live in this hypocritical dichotomy – on the one hand, we perhaps more than any other nation in history live in safety and creature comforts because many young men took the bullet, the bomb, the lethal booby trap that was meant for us.

We daily rely on the ongoing sacrifices of other men and women who were selfless enough to allow their bodies to be destroyed for our freedoms. But then we turn around and act like it was no big deal. In fact, “I am a pacifist” is not literally possible in the USA; if you paid or ever have paid any taxes to the Federal government, it’s too late. You hire people with guns to keep you safe – YOU DO IT!

Let’s get down to brass tacks – SOLDIERS are only “hired guns” sent out to protect YOU! I understand, okay… I get that you can say, “Well, that’s not me behind that stuff, that’s our crazy political leaders making decisions on their own.” Yeah but, they are all voted in. So, you may not have voted for certain leaders, but you enjoy the fringe benefits and blessings and perks of living in a nation that voted for them.

Cops in your hood? C’mon, every US citizen depends on local authorities, police to defend, protect and keep us safe. They carry a gun so that you don’t have to. They shoot the guys with the gun and will and determination to come to your dwelling and do great harm to everything and everyone you hold dear.

So – don’t tell me you are against guns and violence on a moral standpoint, if you are a US citizen. I would say – move to another country if you want to remove yourself from your conflicted, dichotomized hypocrisy.

I get that we don’t trust authority. I get that we enjoy our rebellion psychology. I understand not liking officer of the law soldiers who have never shown any kind of selflessness in our defense.

But I don’t get not appreciating and respecting those people who willingly take the bullet aimed at your head. That – I don’t get.

That – is the reality. You can lump every authority together if you want to.  But I think there is a world of difference between these two kinds of authority figures.

One day there was a rebel who walked the earth, calling out corrupt and evil authorities. He was embraced by the lower class and the down and outers. He took interest in their situation. He cared about their problems. He lived with them and walked with them. He socialized with them and was considered one of them by these corrupted authorities.

And finally he was killed by death on a cross by the authorities. But one soldier bent his knees and cried out “surely this man was the Son of God!”

Jesus did not side with all the authorities, yet he never broke the law. He never acted out in violence. He was innocent, yet made a great difference in the lives of the most needy.

What we need today in our cities is to “cry out” to Jesus and asked him to walk among our most needy places once again.

In answer to that prayer, he might just come in the form of you and I.

Till next time

Jeff

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“HH Polizeihauptmeister MZ” by Daniel Schwen – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HH_Polizeihauptmeister_MZ.jpg#/media/File:HH_Polizeihauptmeister_MZ.jpg

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A Few Feet Away

Just a couple of feet away.

That’s all that separated my grandfather from instant eternity as he fought in the trenches of France during World War I.

Starting in 1914 and lasting 4 years up to 1918, ” The Great War” was an unbelievably brutal conflict in which Germany fought Britain, The United States and other Allied nations along a long trench that split the geography of France. This “trench warfare” really had no complete victory as both sides pummeled the other with mortar shells, grenades, cannons, mustard gas and other chemical explosives, and various kinds of guns, ultimately amounting to a stalemate war of attrition.

War technology advanced 20 years ahead within that four-year span. By 1918 tanks, planes, armor, guns, and modern battle strategy had surpassed the old ways of direct combat, trenches, armies fighting row upon row et.

But sadly for my grandfather, he was drafted at age 18 and sent to live, fight and hopefully survive the gruesome reality of the trench.

A great amount of fatalities and casualties that occurred in the trenches involved exploding shells. Sometimes these shells would explode a few feet above the heads of soldiers, blowing their heads apart like watermelon. New steal helmets helped in some circumstances, but anyone who spent any amount of time fighting in those trenches saw plenty of awful and unsightly deaths.

As my grandfather was walking in the trench one day, some shells began to hit very close to where he was. And then suddenly, he heard a shell coming right for him! He tried to run away, but it was too close to him – it blew him sideways immediately and his fellow soldiers figured he was dead.

Thankfully, the shell did not hit him directly, but hit just a matter of feet on the floor of the trench. Instead of blowing his head off, it just blew hundreds of pieces of shrapnel into his lower leg.

He was taken out of the trench and to the medical area immediately. The doctors did everything they could to save his leg. But they were unsure – time would tell depending on healing and infection. Thankfully the leg was intact and he was able to hobble along.

Before long his leg had healed up and he was able to have full use of both legs throughout his life. The only minor nuisance he had to deal with the rest of his life was chronic pain.

I recall as a youngster, grandpa Ray used to bandage up his leg every morning. But when we were present, he would first let us have a look at his leg. It was constantly swollen, red with many tiny dark speckles of metal and lumpy from the permanent scarring. Hundreds of tiny pieces of shrapnel from the Great War in France were a permanent reminder of what grandpa Ray endured as a teenager for his nation.

I tell you this story not so much from a patriotic standpoint today, but maybe even more from the aspect of divine providence. You and I are not alive today by accident. We are intentionally here for a reason. My grandfather made some unfathomably selfless decisions for the good of humanity.

The fact that I am alive today because my grandfather was a few feet away from annihilation – well, that gives me pause for contemplating my purpose and my destiny.

Life is precious. We all have the ability to make a difference in positive ways. Those who live to bring death and destruction to this planet, well all I can say is it is a total waste of their good fortune of even being allowed to live on this third rock from the Sun.

I am very proud of my grandfather and his willingness to give even his own life for the cause of worldwide freedom.

And I realize today that I must follow in his steps, and live for the betterment of others.

For I am only here on this planet by the difference of few feet.

Until next time,

Jeff

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Thanksgiving Training Day

Yep.

I went to Training School to learn my Thanksgiving skills.

I was schooled and sharpened; re-tooled, tried and tested by my own mother. She was a Thanksgiving Meal Master. She has been taught in the school of amazing Thanksgiving deliciousness by her mother – my grandmother, a Jedi Thanksgiving cook in her own right.

You could set the Thanksgiving Day raw ingredients in front of the average male, and they would croak under pressure, moan under total cluelessness. They could haul the giant bird up from the freezer and take the plastic wrap off. After that, they would just back away and watch football on the TV. The men in our extended family could lift and haul and peal, but they could not turn the frozen and uncooked elements into the fabulous food finale’ that my grandmother and mother could.

The first few years, I was content to merely enjoy the deliciousness and experience the dining ecstasy. But the day came when I was now old enough to be trained. My mother had no daughters. I was first in line. My number was called, my draft card was issued. It was time to step into the Thanksgiving master cook arena. It was time to sink or swim! Cook or be cooked!

At the crack of Thanksgiving Day dawn, my mother arose. Since I was now in basic training, she burst into my room and woke me up. “Time to get the turkey ready.” Oh, she said it nice enough. But I knew what the stakes were. Anytime I had to get up before dawn, I knew it was serious. I was still half-asleep. But I looked into my mother’s eyes. Her countenance said it all. “Game on!”

I was amazed how easily my mother put together the stuffing – a mix of soft bread pudding with perfectly cooked celery and the most pleasantly aromatic sage and onion smell I had ever experienced. I watched her stuff the bird in holes I never knew existed. Turns out God designed this bird to be so perfect for this magical stuffing-manna from heaven. She had figured out a way to make the stuffing the night before so that it seemed to appear out of nowhere. And they say mom’s aren’t magicians!

Then we went to the potatoes. Two million potatoes (it seemed to me) were pealed and polished. The scraps filled up three full garbage bags, I think. Then the peeled potatoes were put into a gigantic pot and boiled for a long, long time. Our family tradition included making scalloped corn and candied sweet potatoes. I have no idea how she made those dishes. The corn was succulent and salty, and the sweet potatoes were rich and luscious. No mortal could create such divine offerings.

When I thought I could not take one more culinary wonder, my mother pulled out a light saber looking knife and went into the cooked turkey – cutting slices of meat so tasty, I could not tell if the juices that seeped forth from each bite were from the fantastic fowl or from my own salivating mouth. To add more insult to outlandish injury, she created a supernatural sauce so succulent, so pungent, I felt my heart skipping beats and racing faster and faster! Yes, she called it gravy, I called it “glorious.”

It was amazing to watch this feast come together on a great table – one that had to be specially built by commercial contractors just to fit all of the food on one place. We sat down for the meal. Dad would pray that we wouldn’t die from delight. And yes, of course we were thankful. Thankful to live in a country that could come up with a holiday so wonderful.

We ate and ate and ate. When the meal was over, paramedics would come and check our pulse, to see if we were still alive. If we were, as was usually the case, mom would then bring in the crème de la crème – The Pumpkin Pie!

No way! I was sure this was a secret plot to assassinate all of us. What a clever way to kill someone, and yet be totally innocent of any wrongdoing! The truth is, we loved it of course. The men looked at their huge stomachs, and for a moment had the sense to say “No way” to dessert just after total engorgement. But at the end of the day, resistance is futile. We all knew we would not only eat one piece, but two!

And just to make it irresistible, Mom would take her last trick up her sleeve – whipping cream! She would put that on top of the pie! A bright light would shine forth from her hand and it would totally wipe out all other sights or senses. We had no will left. Men, with five pounds of food undigested still in their bellies, would then eat even more pieces of pumpkin pie!

Mom had not eaten yet. She was the orchestrator of this great production. When it was over, everyone was slumped in their chairs, totally unconscious. If my memory is correct, at least once I saw her leap into the air, spinning sideways twice around (Yes, a 720!) and landed with the light saber knife extended – exhaling a victorious wheeze that would make Bruce Lee envious!

Perhaps I have exaggerated some of this in my distant memory, but that is how my ten-year old brain remembered it.

Because you see, I was trained in the fine art of Thanksgiving Day Feasts. This Thanksgiving, I will prepare the bird for the 35th time, I will perform the same miracles my mother and grandmother did. I am no chef, but when it comes to Thanksgiving, you better watch out. I got my game face on, and my light saber knife is all charged up and ready for some mean meat trimming!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jeff

So that…

“Wanna hear the most annoying
sound in the world? Aaaaahhhhhnnaaeeeeyyyyyaaank!”

That’s a direct quote from the blockbuster comedy film “Dumb and Dumber” starring Jim Carrey as Lloyd Christmas. It was a very funny moment but I recommend the edited version.

I must admit I laughed out of my chair during that movie. But I think it illustrates a point – sometimes we think we are connecting and communicating positively and effectively with others when we might be making the most annoying sound in the world.

We live in a world of “so that…”

Most people today do what they do, so that:

~ their spouse does something in return.
~ they can get promoted.
~ others are impressed with them.
~ they can get a tax write-off

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with doing something positive to get something in return.

But I Corinthians 13:5 really sets the bar high when it says, “Love is not self-seeking.” And then at the beginning of the “Love Chapter” it says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels but have not love, I’m like a… clashing cymbal.”

Can you imagine walking into a group of people who are clashing their cymbals as loud as they can in your direction?

That might just be the most annoying sound in the world – people who speak God’s truth to others but they have no love.

What is love? Well for one thing it is not self-seeking. When you love another, you seek to help them with no “so that” whatsoever. Also it is totally focused on the other person. Don’t you hate it when well-intended know-it-alls talk AT you or ABOUT you rather than TO you, or WITH you?

If we truly love our neighbor we will lift them off the side of the road, bind up their brokenness, bring the healing oil of compassion and grace and hang in there with them through their pain.

Why? Because love does without any “so that”. We don’t think about how our service might impress others, or how a good deed might benefit our reputation or political or vocational goals. We do simply because Love Does.

Let’s try to remove the “so thats” in our lives and start discovering what real love is all about.

Hey, you want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?

Until next time,

Jeff

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Opening Title Scene.

What’s Your Story?

I love a good story.

Especially do I love a good story well told.

One of my favorite memories growing up was listening to my father and his brothers telling stories about their childhood. The crazy pranks they pulled on each other growing up on a Southern Minnesota farm rank in my mind as some of the most hilarious and outlandish stories I can ever remember hearing.

One such story that I recall them telling often was when my uncle (5 uncles and 1 aunt on my father’s side) was a teenager and working shirtless in the yard under a sweltering sun, my father (2 years younger) saw a perfect opportunity to pull the daily prank. He plucked a corn cob out of the field, emptied the core, and filled it with the usual load of gun powder. Then my father attached a fairly short wick – judging his distance (as all of them had become increasingly proficient at estimating when it came to homemade explosives), he snuck behind the large hay barn, and lit the wick. Immediately he flung the corn bomb over the barn, not really knowing how close his throw was to hitting his brother.

It should be noted that this particular corn cob was not of the soft sweet corn variety. Rather, it was the hard as rock kernel kind. As luck, or fate, would have it, my father threw the most accurate corn grenade in the history of corn cob explosive tosses. It was heading point blank for the bare back of my bent-over uncle. And when it got to about five feet from his back, it exploded into a spray of hard corn kernel shrapnel. Needless to say, I shrill cry of agonizing pain went out from the family acreage and was heard fifteen miles away in every direction. Cut to – the lifeless body of my uncle laying prostrate and unconscious on the ground, with about one hundred red dots swelling at a rapid rate.

That story has been told probably over a thousand times over the years. The amazing thing is, it was just one story among dozens and dozens of equally dangerous and hilarious stories about my father’s family. Somehow they survived, I am happy to report!

The skill with which each uncle told their story is especially remarkable. After a few of these story sessions, it was clear they had learned the art of telling stories. They all seemed to have a knack for setting up each story with enough backdrop and detail, but also knew how to deliver the pay-off, or punch line depending on the story.

They were all true stories, with very little exaggerations. But what was amazing was the roar of laughter that was always produced with each story. Many times, there were twenty or thirty cousins and nephews and aunts and relatives gathered around. I dont know if I have ever laughed harder in my life.

I have always been a story-teller. I have always enjoyed hearing stories and watching or reading stories. Most likely this has to do with my upbringing.

God is the ultimate storyteller. It has been said that the story of Jesus is the ultimate story. Some of the greatest movies of all time have a messianic storyline. Many superhero storylines follow a messianic plot line. In fact, God is in the habit of making great stories out of you and I. Each one of us has a journey, a destiny, a story to fulfill. Just read the Old Testament for five minutes and you will come across some amazing stories of people in need, and trusting God as He once again comes through.

So the next time you find yourself really enjoying a good story, just think about the story you are in – your own life! Believe God for miracles in your life today. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t let others discourage you. Usually those who discourage us are too afraid to finish their own story so they spend their time foolishly tearing down other’s stories. Quite frankly, the Bible has strong words for the small people who resort to such actions. Don’t give up on your story! But even when we fall down, He will be there to complete the story He started in you! (Philippians 1:6)