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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Out of the Two comes One

Part Five: One of the more common questions I’m asked is how do I blend my two worlds into one. The question is generally posed as if there really did exist a separation between the spiritual and the secular; as if I could be one person at work and another at home and church. It became one of my constant goals to be congruent— to have my words and actions agree with my testimony. This brings to mind a day on which I failed. One crisp Saturday morning the shift progressed as usual. I was working in the medical ward. In this ward there was a particular block where those inmates with contagious diseases were housed separate from other sick inmates. On this particular day there was one inmate, who being rather obstinate, provoked me to wrath. [Smile] In police-talk we call this heinous crime Contempt of Cop, and in most jurisdictions, it is considered a serious felony. Well, after being repeatedly disrespected, disobeyed, and challenged—yes, I lost my temper. I stalked out of the control booth and stormed up to the inmate’s cell and snatched open the door. At this point I challenged the man to the fight he had been begging me for all morning. But, like with most inmates, once the door opened, his glass-courage evaporated. Glass-courage is that courage an inmate has when he is locked safely behind the cell door glass. When I walked into his cell and stood over him, I could see the fear in his eyes and only then—once the eyes of all the other inmates and the nursing staff and the other deputy—did I mention I had been telling this deputy about the love of Jesus? --Back to the story.-- I finally heard my partner calling me over the intercom and reminding me that this inmate was not worth my job. Then the truth of the matter settled over me. I had put my testimony on the line. It seemed the Lord was always using the situations of my day to teach me about Him and about myself. The question now, as it was then, is am I listening. ...Just saying.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Out of the Two comes One

Part Four: When asked what stands out about wearing the badge while living in the light of the empty tomb, what comes to my mind is an event that taught me more about the nature of grace than all the lectures I’ve heard on the subject combined. It was early in the shift. I can’t remember what season, but I think it might have been summer— either way it was Southern Cal and all the days are beautiful. Two days prior to this, I had received a novel as a gift and discovered it to be one of those that I just could not put down. On the morning in question, I brought the book with me to read on my breaks. And as fate would have it, or in the case the plan adn mind of God, during the morning roll, it fell to me to run the count on the first floor in booking. While making this round, I came across a single male inmate sitting in a cell designated for at least 20 persons. When I opened the cell to confirm this inmate’s identity, I saw that he was reading a copy of “the” novel. No, not the one I’d written, but the one I was reading at the time. During this early stage in my career, I was still enamored with my shiny new badge and I couldn’t see how anyone of “those people”— those inmates, could have anything in common with me. Time stopped. I stalked to where the inmate sat reading a tattered copy of “the” novel and snatched it from his hands. Fear washed over the young man’s face as his color drained. He went rigid on the stone bench. “Where did you get this?” I demanded. The inmate stuttered, “I-I-I found it on the floor. I didn’t mean to do nothing wrong, sir. I’m sorry. You can have it. I don’t want no trouble.” With that, he stretched both palms toward me as if to push me away. In the breath of that moment, I realized the truth of the statement, “Except for the grace of God, there go I.” In the blazing light of this new revalation, I just stood there, studying the fear on the man’s face, shocked at the anger in my voice and displayed on my face. I stopped. I prayed. I repented. Then I gave the book back and apologized. I left that cell a humbled man. The point? The only difference between us and “those people” is God….Just saying.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Out of the Two comes One

Part Three: I remember when I was a child we lived right up the hill from a ditch…The ditch. My grandmother always told me to stay away from that ditch, or I would fall in. Well, being the full-blooded American youth growing up in the 1960’s South, you might well imagine that I took that admonishment to heart. Well, it was not so different from when I began my career in law enforcement and continuing my walk with the Lord. As an ordained minister, I was always aware of my reputation: What we call a testimony in the church, and the effect it would have if I failed. The key was to not play around the edges of trouble. There were many times when I had to walk that thin line of not giving into the impulse of anger or just plain dislike, but I knew I was being watched; watched by not only my fellow officers and staff, but watched by the Lord. This reminds me of one morning in particular. My oldest son was two years old, and I had just kissed both him and my wife good-bye for the day. I made my way to briefing, and as I sat there, the duty sergeant gave us the details of our day’s assignments. Mine? I was tasked with watching an inmate that had been booked in overnight and was currently on suicide watch. What was so hard about that you might ask? Well, this particular inmate had killed his two-year-old nephew after molesting him and then partially decapitating the small body and hiding him in a trash bag. As the sergeant gave me instructions to watch this man, to guard him, to make sure he didn’t kill himself, I wonder aloud, “Why should I stop him?” Immediately I knew I was wrong. The sergeant stopped, looked up and said to me, “Because you are one of the few people here that I can trust to do it.” As the team filed out, I sat there for a moment and talked to the Lord about it. I made my peace with the fact that I was not to be his judge, but rather his jailer. I was not to be his jury, but rather his guard. I had looked down and found that I had been standing near the edge of that “ditch.” This is what it was like to work in the jail and walk with the Lord. At times, I did it quite well and soared over trials. At other times, I had to fight through…and sometimes I failed. But then again it’s kind like Grand-Ma said, “If you play around the edge of that ditch, you gonna fall in.” I did. You want to know something else? Ditch mud really stinks….Just saying.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Out of the Two Comes One

Part Two: As I’ve said before, I began my law enforcement career working as an Orange County Deputy Sheriff; station 18 for those in the know. It was while still assigned to my JTO (Jail Training Officer; the senior officer responsible to assure that you make the shift from academy graduate to functional field officer.) — that I first realized I would have to earn my right to hold my testimony in Jesus Christ; and still be accepted as a viable officer. However, most of the challenges I experienced were presented on a subconscious level; people just being who they are and expecting me to be like them. One of the first challenges an officer has to overcome is whether or not he/she will engage in battle. Now it is true, most officers over the course of their entire career will never draw their weapon as an act of aggression. However, as a jail-officer, that same officer will have to go hands-on in a combat status at least once a week on average. My first challenge came during my second week of training. In those moments, you don’t have time to stop and pray for a Godly mindset, so one is best served by being prayed up and prepared ahead of time. There are two stations where a fight was most likely to happen: Uncuff or Court Transfer. Uncuff is where new intakes arrive to the jail, and the booking process begins. In this stage, inmates have just come off the streets, transferred from state prison or other city or county jails. On the other hand, Court Transfer is where inmates, already housed in jail, were brought down and transferred to and from court while still in custody. Now, in the jail the different ethnic groups had to be kept separate. Well, actually, the Whites and the Mexicans had a truce that held up in lock-up while the Blacks and Asians teamed up to create a precarious balance that allowed the jail to operate just this side of chaos. Back to my challenge: It was in Uncuff where a transfer inmate decided to challenge me. He knew I was a rookie, and as such, had not been tested. If he caused me to cower or back off, he gained points in the jail. If I prevailed, then I made my marks with my JTO. This all happened in a moment, kind of like scripture — in twinkling of an eye. You either pass or fail. No retest. I passed. Then comes the self-examination where I had to check my heart before God. Did I say or do more than was necessary? Did I, even in the heat of combat, say or do anything that would be displeasing to my God. After assuring that I had not lowered my standards, came the act of living with the praise. Not giving into the power and adulation that is inherent to wearing the uniform is a battle I had to fight every day, not so much with others but rather in my own heart. The fisticuffs was actually a much easier battle to fight. Think about it.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Out of the Two comes One

Back in 1989, as a very mature 26 years old, I was both ordained into the ministry and sworn in as a deputy sheriff in Orange County California. I joined the staff of the Eagles Nest Christian Ministries – under the leadership of Dr. Gary Greenwald- as his leader of Youth Ministries. At the same time, although several months apart, I pledged an oath to uphold the laws of the great county of Orange under the leadership of then Sheriff Brad Gates, not to be confused with his distant relative Daryl Gates who was the Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. Since that time people often, ask me how I can do both jobs and not confuse their missions or become hypocritical in the service of one or the other. For me this has never been an issue. You see, I see myself as a Christian first. Christian before a law enforcement officer, Christian before husband, or father; and here it is—Christian before a Blackman in America. Christ first, Christ always, Christ only. This reminds me of the time when I was testing for the position of sex crimes investigator. My supervisor, which shall remain unnamed, pulled me aside to voice his concerns. In his typical fatherly tone, he expressed his concern that my being a Christian would disallow me to see anyone in a bad light, thus inhibiting my ability to judge rightly a sex offender as evil. He saw my Christianity as a hindrance to the performance of my duties. I took pleasure in explaining that my faith is what gave me the proper understanding of the true nature of what it meant be man…that all of us were evil by nature and it was only the grace of God that set any of us apart. Well that was almost 10 years and many hundred investigations ago: Water under the bridge as we say. In this new post, I would like to explore with you my journey through this blended world of mine. As in all things, I would love to hear and share your thoughts. Out of the two worlds came one unique perspectives, it makes for a wonderfully exciting adventure. Come along for the ride and let’s see what we see…. Just saying.