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Never Forget Means NEVER FORGET

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On the eve of what was the worst attack on our nation’s homeland in recent history, I lay my head down for what I pray is a restful night at the firehouse. Like it was for so many Americans that day in 2001, my day was filled with more emotion than one should have to face in such a few short hours. I say short, because the elapsed time, when reflecting back on that day with the gift of hindsight, flew by relatively quickly. On that day, though…time stood still. Minutes seemed like hours and hours like days.

I sat glued to the television while at work for 10 hours straight, and came home still unable to turn it off. All day long, all I wanted to do was hold my family. To hold your mom and sister tight and offer a sense of protection and safety that deep in the pit of my soul I knew I could no longer provide. That day, we all faced the reality that our lives are so much more beyond our control than we ever knew. The safety net was gone, the walls lowered, and our vulnerability was undeniable. It was a day that changed so many aspects of our lives.

It was a day that helped me realize I can’t do this life alone. It brought me to my knees seeking answers. Seeking justice. Seeking peace and comfort. Seeking truth. I found the Truth that day. I found that I am a sinner and worthy of death. I found that I am reliant on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for my very existence. I found that He took death in my place so that I might be spared. I found the cross. And it’s on that cross that I surrender my all to the One who took the fall.

Life has never been what it was before that day. And for that, my dear children, I am sorry. You will never know a world like I knew growing up. You will never experience the same freedom I had as a child. Your childhood will always be in a post 9-11 world where trust is low and tensions are high.

As our lives unfold, we move closer and closer to the day of Christ’s second coming. The time is now for believers to share the Truth. We will undoubtedly face many trials, adversities, pain and hardships before that day arrives, and it’s my prayer that as you face those moments you look beyond the pain and suffering. Beyond the evil and malice. Beyond the bad. To find the good that lies interwoven in those events. When evil people do unthinkable evil, there are others who rise to help. To serve. To render aid, to support and to save. There are heroes in your everyday life. Some where a badge or a uniform. Some wear only the blood of their country on their hearts as they bleed with pride in the citizenship of our nation.

It’s my prayer that as you grow, those of us who lived through those days can help you to know. To remember. To never forget. Many people in our nation seem to have forgotten. And that, my child, brings a sadness to the very essence of my core. Some have forgotten what “Never Forget” meant. They’ve taken the images of that day down and tried to erase them from our collective memories. They’ve removed them from our mainstream media in hopes that they won’t offend anyone. And even now as I write this, our leaders are discussing the possibility of going to war in Syria to support the heinous people who attacked us twelve short years ago tomorrow! What we all need to remember is that Never Forget means NEVER FORGET.

To the families of those who were killed that day, I offer my prayers. Prayers that the God of love and grace will continually keep you. That His arms will wrap around you, not just today on the anniversary of your loss, but everyday. That you might find a peace and comforting rest in His arms like none other. I pray that your grief, though always present, is comforted slightly by the knowledge that there are more of us who know what Never Forget means than those that don’t. And I pray for safety and blessing on those still fighting in defense of our freedom…at home and abroad…on the front lines and behind the scenes…career and volunteer. You all do your part in providing for our safety and freedom, and the very fabric of our lives is interwoven by your sacrifice.

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

Love,

Dad

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What Six Looks Like!

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In the aftermath of last week’s deadly shooting in Newton, CT I have been at a loss for how to put pen to paper the thoughts in my head. If I had tried, I could not have done it better than this. As your dad right here and now in this moment, I know what 13, 5 and 3 look like…and these words resonate so deeply within me. I love you more than I could ever say.

Love,

Dad

My Random Ramblings

A friend shared this with me and I wanted to share it with you…

I am not really a major cryer. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I cry–when it’s appropriate to do so.  Funerals. The occasional wedding if it’s particularly beautiful or meaningful. Schindler’s List. Things that normal people cry at. I am definitely not an over-cryer. I don’t cry at commercials or cheesy Hallmark movies or at the drop of a hat. And, when I do cry, there’s usually a beginning and an end. I cry. I get it out. I stop. Normal crying.

However, since I first started to understand the magnitude of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning, I have cried a lot. I cried when I heard the terrible news. I cried when I went to pick my son up early from school. I cried when I told my husband what…

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A Dad’s Reflection – Eleven Years Later

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Today, Americans all across the nation and the world pause to reflect on the events that took place 11 years ago.  It is a time in our nation’s history that changed the course of our nation forever.  It was a time when strangers helped strangers, and everyday people performed heroic acts of valor, honor and courage.  It was a day when the heroes ran toward the danger, like any other day, not knowing it would be their last.  It was a day where some gave all, and all gave some.  It was a day that brought our nation to its knees…not just in awe, but in prayer.  People who called themselves Christians, but who had been walking without God, came back to Him.  People who never knew Jesus personally called out to Him and believed.  People all across the world watched in awe.  And prayed.  Some in private, some in public.  It was a time when prayer in schools and in any public forum was again accepted all across our nation…and more than not, welcomed.  It was a day that brought our nation together, with resolve and passion to seek God and to seek justice.

 

It was a day that we will Never Forget.  What do the words “Never Forget” mean to you?  In the words of a friend and fellow firefighter, I couldn’t have said it any better than he did this morning:  “What ‘NEVER FORGETTING’ means to me!  I am humbled and honored to serve with incredible men and women willing to risk their lives WHENEVER called upon.  To our 343 brothers and sisters lost eleven years ago in New York, rest easy, we will take it from here with HONOR and PRIDE!”
It was a day I remember vividly.  I was working a 12 hour dispatch shift, and we watched as the news broke in with live video from the World Trade Center following the first attack.  We watched live as the second plane hit the second tower.  We watched live as people jumped from the towers, hundreds of floors above the ground, to escape the flames.  We watched as the news reports came in from Washington that a third plane had hit the Pentagon.  We watched as news reports came in from Pennsylvania that a fourth plane had crashed in a field, learning as the day went on that everyday citizens on that plane became heroes by preventing further death on the ground at that plane’s intended target.
We sat in disbelief.  In shock.  In awe.  In fear.  In anger.  In grief.  As we watched the towers collapse, we knew instantly that thousands had just perished…that the loss of life in the first responder family would be catastrophic.  We knew the moment the second tower was hit, that we were at war.  That day at dispatch has been, to date, the slowest day ever.  I don’t know the volume of calls we handled that day, but it paled in comparison to the normal call volume.  It was eerily quiet in that little room…all day.  It was quiet at the 911 center that day, because like millions of Americans all across the country, the people we serve were all glued to their televisions.  No one was out doing what they normally do on a Tuesday, unless you had to be working.  Many of us cried, some of us had to walk away to cry alone.  It was a defining moment…one I will never forget.  I remember coming home that night mentally and emotionally exhausted.  I came home to your mom and SD, and wept as I picked little SD up.  Only two years old at the time, I was at a loss for what the future held for you.  For how to protect you from this new evil in our world.  I’m saddened that you, my dear children, will never know a pre-9/11 America.  As you grow, you’ll only know the new “normal”, and that just seems wrong.
To all those servants who gave their all that day, and to the ones who were lost in the aftermath due to the emotional and psychological pain and trauma they endured in the months that followed, we honor you by remembering…and by not being paralyzed by our fear.  We honor you by living out our lives in service to our communities across this world.  I am honored to be a part of the EMS & Fire family.  It’s an honor so few are given…and an honor I do not take lightly.  To be entrusted by strangers with their life and all they have is more than I can fathom some days.  I am NOT a hero, and I am not comfortable being called one.  But I work alongside a crew of heroes.  Everyday citizens serving our community in the little things…and sometimes the big.  I am closer to my men than some of my family, and the bond we share is one only known to those who entrust their lives to one another day after day.
For those of us who know Jesus as our Lord, we honor you, oh Lord, by remembering the sacrifice you made for us on the cross.  We honor you in our humble service to our fellow man.  And we honor you by living out our lives in a way that reflects YOU alive in us.  We lift the families of those lost on this day eleven years ago to you and beseech you, oh Lord, to show them the love shown to us in Psalms 36…to provide them “refuge in the shadow of your wings.”  Give them a peace like no other…a peace only found in you, oh God.  Calm their hearts and minds, Father, and surround them in your grace, mercy and love.  Lord, help them in their search for answers, and walk alongside them as their hearts cry out.  Father, may YOUR will be done, and may you use all that we face to bring us closer to you.  For your glory.  Amen
Love,
Dad
Jesus will wipe every tear from our eyes. - Revelation 21:4   Never Forget

Never Forget

It’s Not About the Breakfast Burrito

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A couple weeks ago, there was a big hoopty doo about the president of Chick-Fil-a voicing his company’s support of the traditional family, as defined in the Bible. It sparked a firestorm of back and forth’s between conservatives and liberals in all the major social media outlets…calling for boycotts and “buycotts” from both sides.

I’m not going into any more detail than that here today, but something occurred to me Sunday that got me thinking. As I left work Sunday morning, heading straight to church, I drove through another local restaurant (which shall remain unnamed) for the breakfast burrito combo. I wanted Chick-Fil-a, but it was Sunday. Gasp! They’re closed. They value the importance of the family, and of the family attending worship together, so much that they close the doors on Sunday. Awesome! I wish more companies would do that! That would be wicked cool to go back to a day in time when businesses all over town stayed closed on Sunday’s. Wait a minute. What about my breakfast?

I’m too young to remember a time in our nation’s history that businesses were closed on Sunday’s. My parents would remember, and my grandparents surely would. By the time I was old enough to notice these things, we could go the grocery store for milk on Sunday…pull into the gas station on Sunday night and fill up…go to a local restaurant after worship service and enjoy lunch. I’ve never known what it’s like to have to prepare for 6 days to be ready for self-sustainment on Sunday.

And yet, isn’t that what it would take to get other businesses to recognize the importance of a day of rest? If I (and millions of other customers) would simply not patronize businesses on Sunday, then sales would be so low on Sunday that they’d be losing money, and might…just maybe…recognize the “profit” in closing their doors for one day.

While I can’t be responsible for the other millions of people that movement would require, I can be responsible for me and my family. But in reality, is it worth it? Is it worth the effort it would take on my part to make such a drastic lifestyle change? I mean really…we do the after-church lunch thing…sometimes with friends. We’re rushed on Sunday nights, following services, and do the drive-thru to feed the kids before bed. I love going to the occasional football game (go Chiefs!) on Sunday afternoon. I enjoy patronizing the TV companies by watching the race or game in the afternoon (albeit while snoring most weeks). 🙂

Am I willing to give all that up? Am I willing to spend 6 days of the week planning for the 7th? Am I willing to just sit back and relax on Sunday and do nothing except worship and rest with my family? I don’t know…but wouldn’t it be hypocritical of me to not do just that? I’m not sure.

However, I do know that recognizing a day of Sabbath doesn’t have to be done on Sunday. It can be done on Monday, Tuesday, or any other day of the week. The day I choose as our day of rest may not be the day another family chooses. So if the day of week we do it doesn’t matter, does it really matter to take a day off at all?

It was important enough to God that He made it one of the top ten.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” – Exodus 8:8

It was important enough that He set the example himself.

“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” – Exodus 20:11

It is important enough to God because it’s important to our health (spiritual, mental and physical). He provided a day to us for our benefit, not his…for rest…restoration…rejuvenation…relaxation…for worship…for deepening our fellowship with Him. It’s not for His sake we need a day off…it’s for ours.

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” – Mark 2:27

When we take a day from our hurried, fast-paced lives to refresh our spirit, to rest our minds and bodies and to fellowship with God, we recognize our dependence on Him…and we demonstrate how important God is to us. It’s not about when we do it. It’s about doing it. It’s not about what we eat for breakfast on Sunday morning…it’s not about the breakfast burrito at all. It’s about recognizing that God is God…and we are not.

Love,

Dad

Never Forget

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Ten years ago, life was much different than it is today. By the time you’re old enough to read these notes and understand their words and meaning, I’m sure life will be much different than it is now. I’ve heard people say before that every generation has their “defining moments.” Defining, not in that it defines who that generation is, but in that it defines what that generation lost…and what they gained. In my lifetime, there have been few of those defining moments to reflect upon. I was in middle school when the space shuttle Challenger exploded, killing all on board. We watched the launch live from the school library, looking up with amazement as the first teacher in the history of space exploration embarked on a monumental mission, and we watched in awe as something went horribly wrong very early in the launch. I was a sophomore in high school when the Berlin wall came down, marking a historic end to the post-World War II Cold War era. I was a senior in high school when Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait, resulting in the first Iraq war. Four years later, I was taking a new job with Sonic Drive-In, traveling to Jefferson City, MO when the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City, OK was bombed, killing 168 men, women and children.

Each of these incidents spark a flood of memories all their own…where I was, what I was doing, where I was going, me feelings about what had happened, my fear of the uncertain future. If you asked anyone who was old enough to remember these events, they’ll tell you the same. Everyone has a story, a slew of memories linking them to each event. Like our parents, grandparents and the generations before them, everyone remembers where they were when their generation’s “defining moments” occurred.

It’s odd to sit here and reflect back on life ten years ago. The economy was booming…we had more than we needed, and we lived in abundance…jobs were plentiful, and employers were bending over backwards to recruit and retain good employees…we had freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from anxiety. Freedom from the uncertain. We could walk onto an airplane and never once give thought to a terrorist taking us hostage. We could walk into any federal building or national monument, never giving notice to how relatively easy it was to pass through security. We could drive through all 48 contiguous states, passing gasoline tankers on the highway without the thought that someone could use it as a weapon to kill innocent men, women and children. War was behind us…not ahead of us. So we thought.

Then on a sunny Tuesday in September 2001, life changed. For some, they met their fate with eternity. For others, they lost loved ones, friends and coworkers. Others ran toward the front lines, doing what they could to protect life. Still others watched in horror, either right there in the thick of the storm. For the vast majority of us, our only connection to that day’s events was in watching it unfold thousands of miles away, on television. It didn’t matter where you were that day. We were one. As a nation, we were one…united together. Banded together as one people, prepared to shake off the dust…save who we could…honor those we couldn’t…lift each other up and move forward together to heal our wound and strike back at those who had taken us by surprise. In the days and weeks following that day, images of solidarity and unity were everywhere. You couldn’t walk outside, turn on the television or surf the internet without being barraged by images pledging to “Never Forget”, that we are “One Nation Under God” prepared to stand and fight with a call to “Let’s Roll”.

In those moments on that Tuesday morning and throughout the day, we knew. We knew the moment we watched the second plane crash into the second tower. We knew we were under attack. We knew life as we knew it had changed. We knew this was our defining moment. Some say it was our darkest hour. I choose to believe it was our finest hour. In an instant, strangers became best friends, heroes to each other, performing acts of heroism for those in need. Some say the heroes of that day are the firefighters, police, port authority, and ems workers that rushed in, toward danger to help those in need. While they did indeed perform heroic acts, I know that if you asked them…the ones there that day…they would say they’re not heroes, but they worked with a bunch of heroes. As a firefighter, I can honestly say I’m not a hero. I’ve been called one before. I’m not. I’m a guy doing my job…doing what God called me to do and what the citizens of my fire district pay me to do. The heroes of that day, in my opinion, are the average citizens who rose above their own suffering, pain and difficult circumstances to help another in need. There were thousands of them that day.

Yeah, we knew. I was working my part-time job here at the 911 dispatch center that day. I watched in horror as the second plane struck the second tower. We knew we were at war…we didn’t immediately know who our enemy was yet, but we knew we were at war. I watched in horror as both towers fell, knowing that thousands had just perished. Knowing before it was confirmed. I watched footage of the attack on the Pentagon, waiting anxiously to hear news from other possible target location, praying there would be no more. I watched as the reports of another plane crashing in Pennsylvania came in, learning of heroic acts of courage and valor from average people, determined to take a stand. We knew life had changed. We didn’t know yet the extent to which how much it would change, but we knew. In all my years of working at the 911 center, I can say this with absolute certainty. It will go down as the slowest day in history. If the phone rang a dozen times, I’d be surprised. It didn’t take long to realize that everyone with access to a television was seated in front of it, glued to it with an intensity like no other. I still remember calling your mom…asking her if the television was on. On her reply “no”, I told her to turn it on, and she asked “what channel?” I still remember saying something like, “I don’t think it matters. Just turn it on. I love you.” I still vividly remember coming home to hug her and embrace SD with all I had in me. It was a moment of innocence lost, an embrace that spoke volumes about my emotions…as a new dad, it was an embrace of uncertainty, a hug of fear. Knowing that life would never be the same, I wanted to embrace you and your mom as though it was the last time I would ever hold you. Because quite honestly, that day awakened us to the reality that any moment may very well be our last.

As you read this, I pray you take from it what God would have each of you individually to know and feel. Know that as a father, my greatest concern is for your safety and protection. Prior to September 11, 2011, it was not the burden it is now. In a post 9/11 world, uncertainty has invaded us. Ten years later, as the nation pauses to reflect on that day, it’s my prayer that we reflect on our emotions of not only that day, but of the days, weeks and months that followed. When we said “Never Forget”, I pray we truly apply those words to an action. Ten years later, it feels as though the country has become complacent again. As the first commercial planes took the air 4 days after the attacks and in the months that followed…on a whole, we as a people didn’t bat an eye when asked to go through much more rigorous security measures at the airport. Today…not so much.

I’m just a guy. My opinion is no more important than anyone else’s. What I have to say on this topic is nothing special…it’s quite honestly just the ramblings of a middle-aged man getting older, knowing that my time here is short. In the time I have left, I hope to share with you what I believe God has asked of me. Because, you too will face your own defining moment in history. Your generation will come face to face with its own moment in time when life will forever be changed. When you do, find peace in remembering these words. I believe that in sharing with you my personal story of that day…my emotions, my fears, my resolve, my uncertainty, my memories…in this, I remember.

It’s my way of keeping my promise to “Never Forget”. It’s my way of remembering. From a video I watched online Saturday, “When we remember, we honor. When we honor, we value. What we value, shapes who we become. Throughout Scripture, God urges us to remember. The sacrifices made…the freedom gained…the promises kept…the faithfulness of God. God has urged us to always remember. Because He knows what remembering does inside of us. Remembrance gives purpose to our past by drawing wisdom, strength and resolve from our pain and loss. Remembrance brings gratitude for those ordinary people who became extraordinary heroes. Remembrance strengthens community as we discover what God does through us when we’re unified. Remembrance provides perspective for what God has done on our behalf, despite our fears and worry. Remembrance reignites hope in what God will bring us through today, and forever. Because God is faithful, even in our darkest hours. God is always there, whatever we face today, whatever trial it seems we cannot endure. Remember that God has always brought us through. And He always will.” – Steelhouse Media Group

There are wonderful things that can be learned from grief that can’t be learned from laughter. In our grief, we are reminded of the brevity of life. Our time here on earth is short in comparison to the eternity we’ll spend afterward – either with God or separated from Him after our death. Our perception of time is based on what we see, here and now in this life. Instead, it should be based on what is not seen, as through the eyes of God, because God’s perception of time is based on eternity. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”James 4:14. There is a brevity to life, and we must prepare for eternity. We should examine the purpose and direction of our life. What are we living for? That’s one thing that changed in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. There was a return to religion…to faith…to belief…in something more powerful and more omniscient and omnipotent than us. Even many of those who did not have a personal relationship with God called out to Him that day. As a nation, we turned to God for comfort, grace and peace. We turned to Him for forgiveness of our own sin and grace for our own lives. Ten years later…not so much. As a nation, we have forgotten. Forgotten how we felt that day…how we turned to Him for comfort. And we have once again cast Him out of our lives.

As Pastor Ralph explained, how we act in times of adversity determines whether we become bitter or better. “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future.”Ecclesiastes 7:14. When faced with adversity and loss, we can choose to either blame God or to seek God. Know this, though. We are all going to die…it’s inevitable…there is no escaping it…it is natural. “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure…The end of a matter is better than it’s beginning and patience is better than pride. Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”Ecclesiastes 7:2-4;8-9.

The end of a matter is better than it’s beginning. Let’s take just a second to break that down. God is basically saying that the day of a man’s death is better than the day of his birth. Why? Because it is in his death that we are reminded of the brevity of life and naturally take pause to reflect on our own life and its meaning. It’s in our grief that we turn toward Him for our comfort, and it’s in Him we find grace. It’s in those moments we can reflect the light of Jesus Christ. God rewards patience. Patience in our grief is knowing that although we don’t have the answers to the question “why?” right now, there will come a day when all is revealed. In one of my personal favorites, Paul shows us in Romans 5:3-5 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” I couldn’t say it any better myself.

Like every generation before you, yours will be faced with its own defining moment. Your moment may come with advance notice. It may not. Most likely, it will come like “a thief in the night”. When it comes, I encourage you to rise above your fear. Rest your hope in the Lord and rise above your fear of the uncertain and the unknown. For only God knows the plans He has for us. Be prepared to pick up the sword of freedom and the shield of righteousness to protect and defend your family, your community and your nation. Freedom is not free. It comes at a cost. A great cost of sacrifice. Freedom cannot be passed from my generation to yours…or from yours to the next. Every generation must preserve it for themselves. It’s in the moments you’re defending your freedom that you will encounter your finest hour. As you do, take pause occasionally to reflect. To remember. Because it’s only in remembering that we will truly “Never Forget”.

I love you!

Love

Dad

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

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As I write this, it’s been only two hours since the media has reported on the verdict in a “high profile” murder trial.  A mother was accused of killing her 2 year old daughter.  I didn’t follow the case very much in the news, because I have found that the media reports what they want, when they want.  Reporting in the news is jaded to reflect what the reporter believes to be true, not true, relevant or irrelevant, and they more often than not throw in their own personal commentary rather than simply reporting the facts.  This usually ends up in the public finding guilt within the accused before the trial even takes place…guilty until proven innocent…and once “proven” innocent, still condemned in the eyes of an unrelenting public opinion, the life they face will never be lived without the stigma and reputation that will follow them.

That’s not how the system is supposed to work.  Innocent until proven guilty is a thing of the past.  I’d like to think that back before the time of instant communication making information accessible across the globe, the accused truly were innocent until proven guilty.  Now that we have radio, television, email, internet, cell phones, texting, Twitter, Facebook and the like…the times have changed.  Innocence for the accused is now a pipe dream.  Moral of the message here is this: take what you watch, read and hear in any media form at face value…with a grain of salt.  It’s most likely someone’s opinion rather than fact.  You’ll learn this along the way as you grow, as I’m sure you’ll see it lived out in your own experiences.

Such is the case with this recent news…the reading of the verdict.  This mother was found “not guilty” on the counts of murder and child abuse/endangerment.  But because she was found “guilty” on the counts of falsifying information to law enforcement officials, the public has condemned her as being guilty on all counts.  Really, the public had already condemned her and “found her guilty”, so the reading of the verdict was more of a slap in the face to a lot of people I know than anything…people who believe she is guilty.  I’ve been reading posts on Facebook all afternoon from “friends” who are shocked at the verdict…surprised she was not convicted of murder…angry at the justice system for what they perceive as a failure…condemning her for getting away with murder.

What is truly saddening to me is how easily we forget how guilty we all are.  We all deserve to stand before a just and holy God and face accountability for our actions…our sin.  God makes several things VERY CLEAR:

1.  There is but one Man who is not guilty of sin.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”Romans 3:23  There are other Scriptures to back this up, but this is the one we’re most familiar with.  Regardless of companion verses, it can stand alone.  The truth here is simply that we are all sinners.  In Exodus 20, God lays out a foundation of right and wrong…lists the Ten Commandments and provides for us a moral footing upon which to live.  When Christ came to the earth, He went a step further: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court.  And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”Matthew 5: 21-22.  He goes on further: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”Matthew 5:27-30.  Any violation of the rules He has set out for us in His Word is sin.  Simple as that.  Sin came into this world through man.  We all sin.  We’re all guilty.

2.  Judging others is not our job.  In the first 11 verses of John 8, Christ makes this crystal clear, summing it up in verse 7, “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Luke 6:37 is a great companion verse, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”  God alone is holy and just.  We are not God, and because we ourselves live in sin, it’s not our place to judge or condemn someone else for theirs.  In fact, as believers we are called to forgive others:   For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”Matthew 6:14-15

That’s not to say that we are not to be held unaccountable to the laws of our land.  God has allowed the laws of our land to be put in place for a reason…for His plan.  Those placed in positions of leadership and authority over us (judges, congressmen, senators and other elected officials) have been put there by God, so they are in effect doing what God has ordained to be allowed…regardless of whether or not they are believers.

  • “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason.  They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”Romans 13:4-5
  • Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” Titus 3:1

A jury of our peers and/or a judge in a lawful courtroom has authority to judge our actions according to the laws of the land.  And if we’re found guilty, we’re to submit to their ruling.  This would be the only time that “judgment” should be allowed from one person to another.  And for the rest of us not privy to all the facts or placed in the position to lawfully hold someone accountable, we are to accept the ruling of the court and let God deal with all parties and their action or inaction when the time is of His choosing.

3.  Sin has a punishment…a sentence.

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 6:23.
  • “remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”James 5:20

4.  God loves us enough to offer forgiveness rather than condemnation, although we will all face judgment. and deserve condemnation  You’re surely familiar with John 3:16…it’s one of the most popular verses in the Bible.  But let’s take a minute to look at it in context starting in verse 1 of chapter 3:

 “1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.  2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”  3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.   4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spiritgives birth to spirit.  7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘Youmust be born again.’  8 The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”   9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

   10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?  11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.  12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?  13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.  14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

There are three things within this passage that immediately stand out to me:

  1. God loves us so much that He gave His son…to die an unimaginably painful death on the cross…for me, and for you…and for the mother found not guilty today.  “The world” in verse 16 isn’t just the righteous…the good…the people who work hard…the ones who do the right thing.  Nope.  “The world” means just that…the world.  Everyone!
  2. Verse 12 speaks a powerful truth that is hard at times to digest.  It does me no good to try to explain to someone who lives without Christ in their heart how the process of forgiveness and judgment and “heavenly things” works.  Not to be interpreted as saying we shouldn’t speak the truth in love and show non-believers the truth in the Word.  Just that we need to leave the results to God.  Not everyone is going to get it, and there will be many who don’t.  Many of the people we know and love may never understand, and will then miss out on the redemption found in the blood of Christ.  It’s not our job to convince them, because only the Holy Spirit can talk to a person’s conscious.
  3. There is only one way into heaven, eternity with God.  Belief in Jesus Christ and following Him as your personal Lord and Savior.  Good deeds alone don’t get us there.  Living a morally righteous life doesn’t get us there.  Attending church doesn’t get us there.  Being good people doesn’t get us there.  Belief gets us there.  Belief takes more than knowing God exists.  Even the demons and the devil himself acknowledge the existence of God.  Doesn’t mean they’re going to heaven.  A true belief and acceptance of Jesus Christ as being the Son of God, coming to earth as Man, living a sinless and perfect life, being wrongfully accused and crucified on the cross, rising three days later,residing now in heaven with God, coming again one day for His followers.  True belief in all of that is reflected in the life we live, the words we choose, the actions we take, the people with whom we associate…the fruits of  our life.

A few companion verses for this passage:

  • Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” – Mark 16:16
  • But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”Romans 6:22
  • For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” – James 3:18

The long and the short of it is this.  I don’t know whether or not this woman is guilty or not guilty.  Quite honestly, I don’t care.  That may sound harsh, but in reality, I don’t.  Why, you ask?  Because if I care, then in a way, I’m looking to find justification within my own  mind to condemn or not condemn her.  I wasn’t on the jury.  Nor was I presented with all the facts.  Only those in attendance for every portion of the trial were.  The jury of her peers alone is capable of determining guilt or non guilt of the crimes for which she was accused here on Earth.  God alone is the capable of determining her guilt or non guilt when she faces His judgment.  It’s my prayer that she accept Him if she hasn’t already…that she draw near to Him and renew her relationship if she has…that others may be drawn to God through this…that I may be slow to anger or judge others and quick to forgive…and that the family of the 2 year old little girl, including her accused mother, find peace and comfort in Christ through this loss.

For you, my children, I pray that you are slow to judge others and quick to forgive also.  I pray that as you grow and begin to be influenced by the media (in all its forms) and your peers that you take it all in with the wisdom and discernment that can come only from God.  Stay in the Word.  Stay near to Him, and that will come easier than if you do not.  I also pray that in the times you are accused of wrongdoing by this world (whether with cause or not), you can rely upon Him for your strength and peace.  When the tide of public opinion may find you guilty until proven innocent, may you grow in your faith knowing that even the  apostle Paul endured years in prison for his faith, and He’s basking in the glory of heaven right now.  Even Christ knows what it means to be wrongly accused, sentenced to die for crimes He didn’t commit, to be guilty until proven innocent…death for our sin, not His own.  Even now, Christ endures the fate of a public opinion that continues to find Him guilty until proven innocent.  Rest assured, when He returns to usher in His kingdom, all will finally know…once and for all…that He is innocent.

Love,

Dad

Shine Your Light

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Yesterday was Fathers Day, and I’m reflecting on last week…a paramedic from St. Charles County Ambulance District passed away. A memorial service is scheduled for tonight. He had suffered a stroke about a month ago and passed away from complications resulting from that stroke. When I heard of his passing, I was shocked, because I had just seen him on the scene of a medical incident about a month or so ago…what would have been just prior to his stroke. He and I weren’t close friends, in fact we hardly knew each other…except to say we shared a bond through our work. When we first met, he was at the medic base right around the corner from our station…where I started my career and have spent the majority of my now 13 years as a career firefighter. We shared a similar schedule, working 2 out of every 3 shift days together, so we saw each other on scene frequently. I don’t remember the specific story of when or how it came to be that he started calling me “tiny”, but that was him. After the first time he called me that, it is how he referred to me every time we met, even last month…after not having seen each other in close to four years. That incident last month, seeing him for the first time in 4 years, and saying “hey, tiny!” is perhaps why it was such a shock to hear of his passing…and what has prompted this note.

He was in early 50’s. I’m about 5 weeks shy of my 38th birthday as of this writing, so we were maybe 15 years apart in age. It’s certainly not unheard of for a 50 year old man in a high-stress career to die of a stroke, but death has a way of meaning so much more when it’s someone we know…even if only through the common bond of career choice. It’s also not unheard of for a guy in his 30’s to die of a stroke, heart attack or any other combination of medical complications. What I’m trying to say is that my time here is short. Shorter than I am prepared. I’m ready for God to rapture us all Home. I rally am. What I’m not ready for is to be called Home prior to the rapture…to leave you and your mother here without me. Yet I work in two high-stress, high-risk careers, and I ain’t getting any younger. I have work to do yet. Lessons to teach you. Wisdom to share with you. Life to grow with you. Now is the time to start sharing all I can here…through these notes, as well as in our daily life. I must kick my efforts into overdrive…ramp it up a notch.

If there is one thing about me that I wish you could know, it would be that I’m proud of what I do, not because some see it as heroic, but because it is what God called me to do. Some think that what I do is heroic. I’ve even been called a hero. I’m not. I don’t want to be a hero. I’m just a man doing his job, what God has called me to do the very best I can. I’m just a dad trying to lead my family the best I know how. We are often called upon to perform courageous actions in difficult situations. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.” Very true words and very well put. The dictionary defines courage as: “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc. without fear.“ I disagree. I read a quote once, but I don’t know its source: “courage is not the absence of fear, but rather doing what must be done in spite of your fear.”

My child, you too can face your “difficulty, danger, pain, etc.” and do “what must be done in spite of your fear”. You have that within you, granted to you through the power God. Find your strength in God and face your pain and danger and difficult situations with Him by your side, resting comfortably in the knowledge that whatever the outcome, you did the very best you could, and God will be pleased in you for that and reward you for it.

If there is one thing I could say to you before I go…if this were the last note God allowed me to write, I would say this. I love you more than words could ever express. I go weak when I think of you in pain. When I see death, it rips me apart inside to not be able to hold you…to tuck you in at night…to see you and know you’re safe and protected. I love my job and what I do, but I hate being away from you. I hate not being able to tuck you in every night. I hate missing you coming home after school every day. I hate not being at every dinner with you. I hate missing important events in your life. I love what I do, but make no mistake my child. I LOVE YOU MORE! You and your mother have always come before my job. I work to put a roof over your head, blankets on your bed, food on your plates…to provide life’s necessities for you, along with the occasional wants. That is why I am away from you 1/3 of every month. You are the most important thing to me, next to God. I love each of you with so much passion that it hurts to be away from you. It is my prayer and sincere hope that you never go through life thinking this job came first. I want you to remember that spending time with you was a #1 priority for me. Just being with you was something I always cherished.

It’s my hope and prayer that in my life I’ve demonstrated this to you and shown you what I’m saying above…to have been a blessing in your life rather than a burden. God called me to be your father, and made it a higher priority than my career. It is even a higher priority than my ministry within the church, and I want you to know I work daily to seek His will and plan for how to fulfill my role as your dad. Some of the Scripture, I use to follow His lead:

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” – Ephesians 6:4

The rod of correction imparts wisdom; but a child left to himself disgraces his mother. – Proverbs 29:15

Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life. In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, buy he who guards his soul stays far from them. Train a child up in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” – Proverbs 22:4-6

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your children. Talk about them when you sit down at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” – Proverbs 22:15

Even the song I wrote to you, My Quiver, references Psalm 127:3-5, which daily reminds me what a blessing you are to me. I certainly don’t get it right all the time. I stumble in my efforts to be the best dad. I try as hard as I can every day to be the best dad I know how. Please forgive me when I let you down and when I disappoint you…and know that you are a #1 priority for me.

My mom, your Granny, recently posted on Facebook a quote that a friend of hers used. I don’t know who deserves the credit for this, but I want you to know: “If you are not being treated with the love and respect you deserve, check your ‘price tag’. Perhaps you have marked yourself down. It is you who tell people what you are worth by what you accept. Get off the ‘sale rack’ and get yourself behind the glass case where they keep the ‘valuables’. Bottom line: value yourself more.” You, my child, are a valuable gift from God…made perfect in His image. There is no one else who is living now or who has ever lived…throughout all eternity…that is exactly like you. God chose you for this time and place in the universe. Make the most of it and pursue your dreams with passion. When you stumble and fall, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and continue on, having learned from your past. As long as I am living, I will be here to help you pick yourself back up, and I will be here to celebrate in your successes. I will be by your side for all my days.

If I could put some of these words to music they would reflect the words already penned and put to music in the song, Shine Your Light by Robbie Robertson. It’s from the “Ladder 49 soundtrack, and while that my sound cliche’, it is not. Regardless of the movie, I would like to think had the song been written separate from the movie, I would still find the similarities in my own life within its words. The song whose words I try best to model my actions and life after would be “Follow Me“, the praise and worship version.

When God calls me into eternity with Him, I will be watching over you. With Jesus by my side. I will be there. Feel for me in the soft breeze. I will be there. Listen for me in the soft whisper on your heart and in your mind. I will be there. Look for me in the brightest star on a cloudless night. I will be there. I will be the light shining in the distant horizon…shining down on you so you can see. I will be there.

Love always,

Dad