For the last three years, or so, I was honored to be able to serve the deputies and staff of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department (Chattanooga, TN) as a Police/Patrol Chaplain.
Now that I am living in middle Georgia, it’s pretty difficult to be a chaplain to police officers 250 miles away. Therefore, I had to resign, of course.
Well, as a final sendoff, I was asked if I could come back to Chattanooga to receive a special certificate of commendation from Sheriff Jim Hammond, along with a challenge coin, recognizing me for my service. Three years is not a long time to be recognized for, but possibly because of the nature of the position and the transitions within the department, a little more than a “thanks, see ya later” goodbye was in order.
So, there in the Command Staff conference room of the Hamilton County Courthouse – where every time the Sheriff gathers his top officers for weekly meetings and has a chaplain open in prayer, give a devotional, and close in prayer – Sheriff Hammond read aloud the commendation.
Many years ago my father volunteered to be a patrolman with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and served with distinction. Later, after my family was rocked by sickening crime, and in the middle of the nationwide protests against police officers, I decided to do more than say “I support the men in blue;” I decided to get involved.
Now, as I settle in as a pastor in a different state, I hope to find a way to continue serving those who put their lives on the line for us every day, year after year. I hope to be able to continue serving in the capacity of a Police Chaplain here in Washington County, GA. Unfortunately, anything official will have to wait until after the election of a new sheriff to replace the one who recently took his life.
One more thing…
Terri and Allen Lindon, along with Sheriff Hammond and Allen’s father.
I wasn’t the only one who got a commendation last Tuesday morning. Pastor Allen Lindon was also honored for his 7 years of service as he stepped down from his duties as Chaplain.
Allen was not only a Chaplain, but he was a reserve deputy – meaning he was a sworn officer and did everything a normal deputy would do, including carry a weapon and make arrests. We really got to know each other when we shared a room for a week at the ICPC training in Louiville, KY. Allen was as fired up and sold out as they came, loving what he did with a passion. He was never afraid to scrap it out with the roughest of characters, even if he was a volunteer wearing a cross.
Unfortunately, while working on some signage at his church property, Allen fell 20ft from a ladder and landed on his head. The damage was severe, the recovery has been rough, and after literally dying three times, it’s time to take a break from chasing criminals and focus simply on souls in Cleveland, TN.
I may have gotten a commendation from the Sheriff, but Pastor/Chaplain/Deputy Allen Lindon really deserved all the honor that day.
Godspeed, my brother!
Below is a video I made after attending the ICPC conference last year in Louisville. We all had a great time! I’m really going to miss these guys.
It was just after midnight, and I knew where my children were (if you’re old enough, you know what I’m talking about).
It was just after midnight, and I also knew where my wife was (thank heaven life isn’t a country song, right?).
It was just after midnight, and believe it or not, I pretty much knew where everybody I love was – and they were not here with me.
Just yesterday I drove from Georgia to South Carolina to pick up a cute little puppy (a chorkie -that’s a dog) that was a gift from our oldest daughter, Alicia. The little puppy was meant, among other things, to help alleviate the pain of the empty nest. But another reason was so that when my wife is out of town there’d be some sort of living being at home to welcome me when I came in the door (mice – and we don’t have any…anymore…don’t count).
You see, I hate being alone. I hate it that the people I love most in the world are not with me. Up until the end of July, the sound of “daddy” (or other versions of it) was a word I heard every day for the last 25 years. Not any more. And then, with everybody out of town last night, I had only 8 ounces of tea-cup cuteness to keep me company… and it wasn’t the same.
I was alone.
Praise the Lord for FaceTime! Can I get an “ amen!”?
But think with me for just a moment. When Jesus spoke words of comfort to a troubled Peter, what did He say to encourage him? Jesus told Peter that he would always have a place in His Father’s house, and most importantly, Jesus would be there with him!
The picture Jesus chose to describe heaven was an eternal home where one would never be alone.
So what is hell?
Hell is a place NOT prepared for us, but for Satan and his demons. It’s not a home; it’s a prison.
With hell there is no hope of Christ’s return or to be received into His welcome embrace. No, it is a place where one is sent, away from the presence of love, to be alone…forever.
No One to speak in our defense. No One to never leave us or forsake us. Only darkness, damnation, and desolation.
Sure, the fires of hell will torment, but how much worse when one is totally, mercilessly alone?
Even if there should be no flame, would not eternal, infinite loneliness qualify as hell?
Here on this earth I am never truly alone, for God is with me. I’m never alone.
But for those who don’t have Christ, no earthly loneliness could ever compare to a place where not even the Spirit of God convicts anymore.
Sure, I may be lonely right now, like I was a little before 1 a.m., but thank God I’m not alone as hell!
This blog was never intended to become a ministerial diary, of sorts, but reality is what reality is, not what we want or perceive it to be.
Therefore, I will continue to share my observations as we press forward in this new (to us) work in Georgia.
Getting strait to the point, there is a spiritual war going on, and you and I are involved in the conflict. It doesn’t matter where you and I are; the war is on-going and world-wide. We will never escape it until it’s over.
Unfortunately, too many think that life, with all its problems, is rarely affected by the spiritual conflict that rages all around us, even within us. Yet, the reality is that nearly everything we experience in this life is tactically connected to innumerable, web-like strategies meant to bring either victory of defeat. And depending on which side you are on – and that is debatable – victory may mean either bondage and destruction, or hope and deliverance.
There are no coincidences, and no small decision is devoid of long-reaching consequences. This is reality, and that’s a check you can cash.
The Influence Factor
To be fair, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, or what responsibility you’ve been given: you’ll never know the full extent of how your life and your decisions will affect others. However, what is equally true is that the more influence a person has, the more of a “high-value” target he or she becomes. And because we are in a spiritual war, this is especially true for those in ministry.
Just since the last post I wrote, the one about “Food and Fur,” I have been reminded that the more influence one has, the more the enemy will attack. I have been reminded that the enemy will wait until we are comfortable, then strike where we are least expecting it, and usually with weapons and tactics for which we have little defense. Or, rather, the defense we do have is more than adequate, but the enemy knows we have not done much training on how to use it. Either way, the attack is meant to knock us back and reconsider our ability to continue the fight.
This is why it should never be an aspiration for a minister to obtain a “larger church” or anything like that, for unless it’s in God’s timing, and unless the minister and his family are equipped, because of the “influence factor,” they – and I do say “they” – may not be able to handle it. The more influence over the lives of others, the more the Enemy will desire your destruction.
The “Fear” Factor
You do remember the TV show Fear Factor, don’t you? Do you remember how that it was perfectly possible for every contestant to complete the required challenges, if only they could conquer their own fears? They all had the strength, the coordination, and the skill, but it was so often the fear that immobilized the contestant who failed. So often in this spiritual warfare what we find is that we’ve been given all we need by the Holy Spirit to be victorious, but fear – fear of failure, fear of exposure, fear of sacrifice, fear of inadequacy, fear of the Enemy – saps our strength, makes us weak in the knees, causes us to run, or convinces us to surrender.
This week (even yesterday) my family was threatened. The threat is hard to assess, but it is being taken seriously, so much so that police departments in two states are now involved. Yet, should we live in fear? Should we be intimidated?
Or, should we refuse to cower and hide, put feet on our faith, and trust our God to deliver?
In the Messianic Psalm 91, David wrote of how he would handle threats. He wrote:
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust’” (Psa. 91:1-2).
Later in verse five he writes: “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day.”
Then King Solomon, David’s son, echoes these very words when he describes the kind of peace one can enjoy when he puts his faith in the true God and trusts His word:
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto your own understanding: in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths…When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught” (Proverbs 3:5-6, 24-26).
Believe me, I am concerned. I am concerned for the safety of my daughters, my family in general, myself, and even my friends and congregation. But I refuse to live in fear! I refuse to live in hiding. I refuse to accept that threats from enemies of God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and my Father in Heaven, the One who tells me to call Him “Abba” (Daddy) – carry more weight than the promises from God’s Word!
Since I’m already at 907 words, I should bring this “Observation” to a conclusion.
First, I don’t think it’s wise to share specific details about what is going on that made me write this post. Doing so would not help keep anyone safe any more than what is already being done. So, don’t expect any real details to come out in future posts.
However, I will say this: Even in America there are those who will swear they are not radical, but will nevertheless use the “fear card” credit their fellow faith-members have earned as a tool. Even should their veiled threats be hollow and only mean, it is impossible to know what is truly in the heart or intended, and should therefore be taken seriously.
Evidently, the Enemy wants to put a stop to what God is doing, and he’s not going to play nice. When people down here said they’d heard I was stirring things up, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind! And whether or not what we are going through right now as a family is related at all to the overall plan here in Georgia, in reality, it’s all related.
So, pray for us.
Your soldiers on the battlefield in middle Georgia
BONUS: Here’s a song my daughter Katie sang several years ago (I think she was 17). I think it’s pretty appropriate for today. Are we fearless, or full of faith?
I’m not going to be posting much by way of original stuff this week – I don’t think (one never knows when he will be inspired). I’m spending my time with our daughter and son-in-law and our new granddaughter in Charleston, SC.
But aside from the visiting, I’m spending a lot of time in resting and reading. No TV. No amusement rides. Maybe a little time today at the gun range with my youngest, Haley, but mostly a lot of time reading and studying.
I know that some of you may have short-term memory, but many of you may remember a post I published back in January entitled, “How Do You Pronounce This Word?”
What was the word? Grandpa.
All I did was show a picture of a coffee mug, then promise that more details would follow.
Well, now is the time to share the details that I promised earlier.
Meet My Granddaughter!
Emma Louise Westbrook!
On Friday the 24th of this month (May), I officially became a grandpa – Emma’s adoption became final. The above picture was taken at the courthouse, and it’s obvious she’s intelligent enough to understand everything that was happening.
Who wouldn’t smile at the thought of being the granddaughter of a grandpa who can sing, draw, color, play with blocks, imitate Grover from Sesame Street, and generally be a kid at the drop of a hat?
I have to admit, I look forward to the day, someday in the future, when the whole subject of adoption can lead to an “adoption conversation.”
There are five times in the Bible where “adoption” is mentioned. One of those times is in the well-known verse below:
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. – Romans 8:15
It will be great to one day have a conversation with her about salvation, and from an aspect that few of us understand as much as she will – because she’s that intelligent 🙂
We will talk about how that just like her mom and dad, her Father in heaven said, “I’ll do whatever it takes to make her mine.” And maybe – because she’s a smart one – she’ll enlighten me to some deeper aspects of a truth that applies equally to me.
I’m so happy that Josh and Alicia were able to have their dream come true to expand their family. We were already so proud of them, but now we are even more proud of how they are becoming the best parents they can be.
My prayer for them is that they also think of the “adoption conversation” and remember that they, more than anyone else in the world, will be able to mirror the love of the Father in their parenting. By their example they can lay the groundwork for a personal introduction to the One who wants to adopt us all into His Family.
Now that you know her, expect more in the future – I’m a grandpa, you know.
There’s a place I used to go when I was younger, when I was in much better shape, and when my family still lived down by the river (but not in a van). It was a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River Gorge, right above where we lived.
Just the other day, as I walked out of the cardiologist’s office, I saw in the waiting room a photo on canvas, a photo of the very place I used to hike to as a kid. Emotions took my breath away.
I moved a chair out of my way and used my phone to take a picture – this picture – of the picture.
There it was, the view like no other in Tennessee, like few in the world. It was the view of my home from on top of that rocky outcrop that I’d gladly hike for a few hours to reach.
Oh, how I’d love to go there again, except this time with my wife and girls! I would love for them to share in the awe and grandeur of God’s perfect river view.
If you were to sit on the edge of the rock, to your left you would see the Tennessee River flow down from the direction of Chattanooga. Below your feet would be a hundred-foot drop to the tops of maple and oak trees. To your right would be (as you see here) the river on which we’d fish, ride in a boat, and watch the rains from every storm approach us like a white wall.
This was Cherokee country. This was moonshine country. This was the place where my great grandfather immigrated to after hobo-ing a train out of Rainbow City, Alabama. This is where my grandfather married a half-Cherokee woman and built a house out of rough-cut pine that he and his father cut at the saw mill. This is where my dad and my uncle would sneak across the river at night to take food to my grandpa Baker who was hiding out from the revenuers.
This was where my dad got his first and last whiskey still at the age of 14, but gave it up after the plum whiskey nearly killed him.
This is where we would later live after my dad met my mom, gave his heart to Jesus, and displayed what it really looked like to be changed by the Gospel.
This is where I learned to shoot, hunt, fish, and be proud of my “hillbilly” roots. It’s also where my cousin and I snuck what we thought were .22 cal. blanks out of my uncle’s gun cabinet and then proceed to shoot at each other across a field at night. Actually, I had the blanks, but Danny had the bullets.
I can say with all certainty, he missed.
This is where I would accept the call to preach at age 16.
This is the place I used to call home, but no longer. Even if I wanted to move back there, the millionaires have bought up much of what used to be my stomping grounds, at least what’s not now part of the Tennessee River Trust. I’d never be able to afford a place to build a campfire, much less a house, even if the old family property was available.
But that’s OK.
Sure, there’s a sentimental ache in my heart to stand on that bluff again, to look down on my old home. But the older I get, the more I have a longing to see someplace else, someplace where I’ll be welcome forever… A place I’ve been reading about in an old Book.
From what I’ve been told, well… the view there is spectacular! Even infinite!
And there’ll be no cardiologist waiting rooms, either.