I’m Still Waiting For That Sausage

hate- verb: to dislike intensely or passionately.

I hate deer. I have an intense dislike for these giant, furry rats with tails that seem to sit in a ditch with a suicide wish and wait for the most inopportune time to try and cross a dark road. I have had to kill bears and owls and dogs that have been severely injured by motorists. Nothing comes close to the pleasure I feel in killing a deer, which means I probably won’t get that Christmas card from PETA anytime soon.

Case in point. I was driving my squad car one evening, on my way to serve a civil paper, on the phone with one of my partners. In an instantaneous second a maniacal deer jumped across the opposing lane of traffic and into my grill. I hit it with the force of my Dodge Charger at 55mph, and sent it spinning straight out in front my squad across the pavement. Shoot!, I yelled into the phone (yes it was indeed that word). I got off the phone and surveyed the damage to my car. The front end looked like a crunched up pop can. Limping it to the dealership, I spent an hour and a half finding a spare squad and transferring all my equipment over. The butcher’s bill on that repair was $7,000.

Yet, that wasn’t enough. The suicidal deer had it out for me this year. Two days later as I was driving my squad down a dark road, I spun the old war-horse Crown Victoria around to try and stop a car that had a taillight out. As I accelerated to catch up, another deer jumped across my grill. I was highly motivated to not hit this deer and swerved to miss it (which isn’t preferable since it is the stuff vehicle rollovers are made of). This time I only clipped the passenger side of my squad, busting the turn signal.

The deer fell into a long, steep ditch. I stopped my car, cursing the entire species of deer. I found the deer with its back leg snapped in two after being clipped by my war-horse. With a sense of ecstasy I ended its existence. Not wanting a deer to go uneaten, I asked our dispatch to try and contact someone on our call list who may be interested in coming to pick up the deer.

Within a few minutes I was told that someone was on their way to meet me, receive a permit for the deer from me, and take possession of it. I waited. And waited. It turned out the person had a hard time finding me, and when he did find me he pulled up in a truck that looked as if it had been in a demolition derby in 1996. The driver looked like he could have been Uncle Jesse from an episode of Dukes of Hazard back in 1979. He had overalls and a long, white beard and talked as if he were on death’s doorstep.

I told him where the deer was and he quickly informed me that he had quadruple bypass surgery and several stints in his heart. Wanting to not turn a deer tag call into a heart attack call, I elected to drag the deer for him up to the top of the road. After a five minute hall up the steep embankment, the deer laid on the shoulder waiting to be lifted into his truck.

Uncle Jesse turned his demolition derby truck around in the middle of the road to pull next to the deer and place it in the bed of the truck. Probably intending to begin tenderizing the meat, he ran over the deer with his back tire in the process. He then waddled to the back of his truck with the respiratory sound of Darth Vader. He wiggled the handle to drop the tailgate of his truck and it was rather obvious the entire handle was missing. “This thing has been broke for a while”, he gasped.

I asked him if he had a rope or anything to hoist the deer into the bed of the truck. The answer was no. Of course it was no. This call had gone to Bismarck a long time ago. I told him if he could lift up part of the deer, I may be able to dead lift it into the bed of his truck while I was standing in it. I watched as Uncle Jesse bear hugged the deer as if it was his long lost son and barely get it into my reach, allowing me to lift it into the truck by its leg.

By now both of us sounded like Darth Vader. He thanked me profusely and said he would give me some sausage after he had cut the meat up. He then went on to tell me about America’s problems and how it is the fault of President Obama and the last thing we need is another black president.

Ah, Uncle Jesse was a racist. I countered his opinion. Quickly wished him a healthy night and went on my way. I’m still waiting for that sausage.


Seeing God in Everything

“A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart.” —Charles G. Finney

The morning was one of grey skies, cloud cover and steady drizzle. I shuffled through lines, displayed my driver’s license, had someone stare at a ghost like image of my naked body through a full body scanner, and waited at the gate for my plane to fly out. The airport buzzed and hummed with the normalcy of travelers bustling from one place to the next with sights set on their next destination.

Everything was routine. The weather was mundane. There was nothing spectacular that was occurring. I sat in my in window seat and watched the raindrops scurry across the window as the plane gained speed and elevation. The distance between us and the thick, grey cloud cover lessoned, and then it all happened so quickly. Like a blink of the eye. Like a thief in the night. This tube that had two engines strapped to it punched through the clouds to display a crystal clear atmosphere that was set on fire by a ball of fire 93 million miles away from me.

In the course of five seconds the interior of our plane went from dark and cool to bright and warm, filled with the rays of the sun. My first thought was that the second coming of Jesus will be like this. My second thought was that Jesus will be even more bright and brilliant and glorious as this sun penetrating its light through my window.

Everything in this universe relates back to God because he is the Author of it all. Finney was right in helping us think on what our state of mind should be as we go through the day to day routine of life. We can see God not just on Sunday mornings, or in small group, or in a theological book that we may read. God is not just to be thought about on Christmas and Easter. For those who follow Jesus, they should see an ever increasing awareness of how everything relates back to God.

This indeed is pure grace and evidence of a thankful heart. Kindle that type of mindset.


There is Tension in Christmas

Mary’s Song by Luci Shaw
Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest…
you who have had so far to come.)
Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world. Charmed by dove’s voices,
the whisper of straw, he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed who overflowed all skies,
all years. Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught
that I might be free, blind in my womb
to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

Grace Church, to understand the depth and beauty of Christmas we need to understand the tension of Christmas. That tension is found in the mission for which Jesus came. Christmas is the dawning of the gospel.

God’s vigor hurled a universe into being. God took on flesh and reduced himself; he who overflowed all the skies. He is older than eternity now he is new as an infant born to Mary. His mission was to glorify his Father and create a rescue plan for sinners.

Jesus was nailed to the planet he created that we may be free through his death. The darkness that is our sin and separates us from God can now be overcome. He who was a new born offers new birth to you and me.

Christmas is not a cute story but the beginning of a story which leads to the ripping apart of the God-Man; Jesus Christ. He had to be torn so we could be mended. The mending can come through your calling on the name of Jesus. No longer a baby in a manger but a King on a throne.


The Gospel, Not A Cop

Time and time again law enforcement is called on to try and resolve problems we are not designed to fix. One of the reasons we are called to try and answer these unsolvable problems is because people have no where else they know they can turn to. The reason for this is usually a mix of blame that falls on their own selves and a blame for others in their lives not teaching them as they should. Case in point…

I receive a call one evening for a 6 year old out of control. How out of control can a 6 year old be I thought? Spank him. Man-handle him. Be a parent by being tough and tender. When I arrived at the trailer home an exasperated mother came outside to greet me. She was obviously flustered and said that she didn’t know what to do anymore. Her son (who I will call Benjamin) was hitting, punching and kicking his two other siblings and raising all sorts of unholiness in their home. She couldn’t control him and said she was ready to send him off to foster care.

Knowing that her son wouldn’t qualify for foster care but realizing that he was being a significant problem to safety in the home, I really didn’t know how I was going to handle this. I went inside the home and found Benjamin hiding behind a couch. He was crying. A red-haired, pudgy 6 year old that did not want to talk to me. After getting his side of the story (which consisted of him not getting his way) I pulled his mom back outside to explain to her that this was not a law enforcement problem and she needed to discipline her son. Would you like me to provide you the belt?

Within a few minutes I could hear screaming coming from inside the home. The Grandma came out, exasperated, saying that Benjamin had lost it again. I went back inside to find Benjamin sitting in the middle of the living room pitching a raging fit that would put any hungry, screaming infant to shame. I’m not sure what I would have done with this call prior to being a parent, but having a few years of experience I had a couple tools that were grounded in my understanding of the Bible and how boys think.

I stood over him with a wide stance, hands on my duty belt. He looked up at a 5’11” cop, feet firmly planted, who asked him in a firm tone, “Benjamin, are you a baby or a boy?” His yelling stopped. A calm came over him and he replied that he was indeed a boy. “Well boys don’t throw fits like this. Babies do. You are behaving worse than my two-year old right now and it is pathetic. Do you want people to think of you as a boy or a baby?” He replied that indeed, he wanted to be thought of as a boy. Boys want to be thought of as boys.

I realized that this mother had no idea how to parent a boy in a way that didn’t have empty threats and screaming. Benjamin had no dad in his life and appeared to have no model of how a boy and man were supposed to act. It was nearing bed time so I asked him what books he read before going to bed. He pulled out a book (and I’m not even kidding) that was titled, Moods and Emotions. I asked him what chapter he was on and he pointed to chapter 10 in the index- “Anger.” You can’t make this stuff up.

I planned to read him this chapter on how to deal with anger but asked if he knew how to read. He said that he did and I began listening to the best reading I have heard out of any 6 year-old in my life. This kid was smart I realized. We read the book, he got his pajamas on and into bed he went. As his mom and I stood by his bed I told him, “Benjamin, you have treated me with respect tonight and I appreciate that. But your mom is way more important than I am and you need to treat her with even more respect.” Benjamin got a perplexed look on his face and said, “But cops are important too!” The kid melted my heart right there.

I’ve stopped back a few times since that call to check on him and see how he is doing. He greets me with a grin, gives me a hug, and calls me by my first name. In fact, he’s due for a visit again soon. This mother needs people in her life who love Jesus and are willing to be patient with her and teach her how to parent out of a tender toughness and not out of reaction. Benjamin needs godly men in his life to model and teach him about what it means to be a godly boy and man someday. That house didn’t need a cop that night, it needed the gospel.


How We Celebrate Halloween

“For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” I Thessalonians 5:5

I love Halloween because I love Jesus. What other day of the year do I have over 200 hundred people knocking on my door, wanting to see me (well, actually my candy). Never. Our family sees Halloween as a time in which we can let our light shine in our neighborhood by making our house stand apart from every other house. It is a time where we have the potential to build relationships that one day may lead to gospel growth. It is a time for engaging and not a time for retreat.

As a family that loves Jesus and wants others to love Jesus, here are 5 ways we can engage our neighborhood on Halloween.

  1. Let your house immediately stand out as different from other houses. While other houses have ghosts, police tape and fake heads hanging in tree limbs, we light up our tree in the front yard with white Christmas lights. I’m just waiting for that one person to ask why we have those lights on during Halloween. We also have a jack-o-lantern that has a cross on it glowing on our front step.
  2. Look for ways to draw adults to the front step for conversation. We do this by handing out coffee to the adults. They love it and it provides an opportunity to ask them where they are from and strike up a conversation.
  3. Be generous. We do this by handing out full size candy bars. Every year may not provide the budget for it, but look for ways to be extravagantly generous to people because of how Jesus has been generous to us. We want to reflect that to our neighbors.
  4. Be hospitable. I’m not a person that finds conversations easy with strangers, but for a couple hours on Halloween evening I try to make conversation with kids and adults and look for ways to make connections with people in my neighborhood.
  5. Nail 95 Theses to your front door.

Whatever it is, Christians should be the ones out in full force on Halloween and getting to know the people around them. Jesus did not shy away from darkness, rather he polluted it with the light. That is what we want to do as a family on Halloween and we hope that maybe these simple ways will lead to friendships that will allow for the gospel to take hold in other’s hearts.

 


The Aroma of Suicide

Many new perspectives on life have opened up to me in the last decade of being in law enforcement. I came into this profession with little understanding of the effects of sin on people’s lives and how to relate or interact with them as a sinner myself. Much of my life had been encapsulated in a bubble of Christian safety and to have that bubble popped by the pin of a badge on my chest brought with it the new aroma of a world awash in sin and despair.

One of those aromas I learned to quickly smell was that of depression and suicide. This aroma wafts across all ages and gender. It knows no boundary of wealth or status. People hang themselves in broken down trailers and million dollar homes. There are so many homes that we enter because of people struggling with depression and wanting to kill themselves. It is really staggering.

I entered into that smell recently that started with the aroma of a 911 hangup call. Our dispatcher answered the call and could only hear heavy breathing on the other end of the line before it went dead. On call back, a female answered saying everything was fine yet had a noticeable tone in her voice of being in tears. The line then went dead.

When we got to the house we found lights on inside the house. A television was casting glows. A dog was whimpering and whining. Pounding on the door, we yelled, “Sheriff’s Office!” which only served to increase the pitch of the doggy whines. There was no human movement inside the house and we decided we needed to go in to clear it.

It’s a strange feeling walking into a home under those circumstances. Each hallway, each corner, each turn of the knob causes me to wonder what I may find. My partner and I walked up steep, creaky, wooden steps that are unique to that style of an older farm house. An L-shaped hallway held four doors; three open and one closed. The last door at the end of the hallway was the closed one, and as my hand gripped the knob, it refused to move. Locked.

I have never kicked in such a flimsy door. My body lurched forward as my foot met the face of the door. And just as quickly as it gave way, all the movement stopped as I felt the door hit something on the floor on the other side. I stuck my head around the door and found a very drunk female in the fetal position. We helped her up, walked her down the stairs and thought it was simply an intoxicated person that had drunk dialed 911.

As I spoke with her I was met with some very unexpected words. “I tried to hang myself.” Indeed she had for a second look in the bedroom found a belt that had been fashioned in a loop and slung over a wooden rod in the closet. The floor had a small puddle of thick white spit where she had thrown up during the attempt. Her teenage daughter was in the house the entire time and said that she had seen her mom drinking throughout the day. While unaware that her mom had just tried to kill herself she was not surprised to this revelation. It was simply another attempt among a list of previous attempts and she had grown numb to the sad state of affairs with her mom.

We filled out the emergency hold, sent her to the hospital in the back of an ambulance, cleared out the call, and headed to the next one. For every cop you see, you have no idea what they may have experienced and seen two minutes earlier.


The Worst of Society

There is no doubt that humanity suffers from sinful depravity. It’s seen in the news headlines and it’s experienced in the home lives. Law enforcement is a front row seat to some of the worst expressions of that sinful depravity. Fathers abdicate their duties towards their children. Husbands abuse their wives. Drunks take the lives of innocents. Drug addicts rip their bodies apart with poison they can’t live without.

Knowing it and experiencing it are two different things though. I know there are far worse acts of sinful depravity occurring in Sudan, but I can’t empathize with the victims of those horrible acts because I’m not there. I suppose that is why the gospel is such good news. Jesus Christ took on flesh and experienced our pain and suffering and can empathize with us. There are times when I bump up against the worst of society and their sinful acts and mentally shake my head.

One such experience started out as a simple call. I was dispatched to a two vehicle, head on crash with no injuries. But as what happens so often, initial information is not correct, and what was early on going to be a simple call developed into something quite different. Our dispatcher said that the caller was saying that the driver may be intoxicated.

When I got on scene I found much more to the picture. One vehicle was completely disabled, with a wheel sheered off, and an older man in still in the driver’s seat. Another vehicle was 50 yards down the road, in a ditch, with one of its wheels sheered off as well. Two people had stopped to help and were the ones that called 911 and when I asked where the other driver was they said he had ran off into the woods.

The older man was perched in his seat with a blood elbow and was slightly dazed. His back and side windows were shattered and I asked him how that had happened because it was clear that it hadn’t been from the crash. He said that after his vehicle and the other vehicle collided a younger man got out of his car and came up to his vehicle.

Enraged, the young man began punching this old geezer in the face after smashing out two windows with a billy club. Not only had this young man got drunk and chosen to drive but when he got into the crash, he was so angry about getting another DWI that he destroyed two windows and assaulted a man in his 80’s (who wasn’t completely innocent and had his share of problems as well).

We setup a perimeter, called in the K9, and quickly tracked him to the backyard of a nearby house where he was laying down behind a garden. His second DWI was now underway.

This job is a front row seat to a jacked up, broken down, sideways spinning world where I wouldn’t have categories to deal with people if it weren’t for God’s Word. As creation groans underneath the weight of sin, so does my soul.


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