Monday, September 27, 2021

Morning Routines

"It's a good day for you to be here."


"Rough morning...two little girls."

"Say more, please."

She told of missing toddler sisters.  An amber alert was issued for the girls, after officers discovered their mother with fatal gunshot wounds.  An older woman was also killed; a small boy expected to live.

Before the social worker whispered horrors, a morning routine was underway.  Setting the tone for the day is something for which each of us strives: a first cup of coffee; turning on the television; checking the phone; reading scripture; looking out of the window; a shave or toothbrush; checking the children; cereal or toast.  When entering the police operations center, my tone of the day is set by a credit card sized fob.

Approaching the bulletproof door and "authorized police personnel only" sign, I wonder if the door will open.  With one administrative mouse click in a downtown office, the door can become a wall instead of a portal.  After years in the chaplaincy, humility still precedes each swipe.  Surprisingly the door still opens; a tone is set. 

Usually something has been brought to increase morale: donuts, coffee, burgers, fruit, iced water, hand warmers.  Free stuff loosens tongues.  Officers talk about stuff they never talk about; the chaplain prays, listens, asks open-ended questions and the world is a better place.  They feel better and a sense of calling is fulfilled: win-win.

The morning she whispered of murder victims, the routine was working: open door; freebees; prayer flowing; small talk working; the Holy Spirit hovering.  

Line up - a gathering before the shift starts - also has a routine.  

When civilians enter the room, tacit understandings dominate.  Uniformed officers enter, stoic and in the know.  They speak with codes, numbers and abbreviations.  They finish each other's sentences and refer to emails none of the civilians will see.  Police culture subliminally states to civilians, "You are an outsider."  After sixty seconds, anyone with any hint of self-awareness knows who belongs and who has been allowed in the room.

When civilians are allowed in the room, the challenge of where to go abounds.  The members of command sit at a head table, facing everyone else.  Platoon members sit in chairs facing command.  If the shift is full, every chair is taken, leaving standing room only.  Standing next to the command table puts all eyes on the one standing.  Sometimes members of command visit line up and sit at the command table; sometimes they stand; sometimes they sit with the platoon.  If a civilian is sitting in a chair and a sworn officer is standing, there is a sense of being "in someone else's seat" since some are supposed to be in the room and others are allowed.  

It's a head game.

When she was whispering tragedies, we were both standing in the corner.  Shortly after her whispering stopped, the sergeant asked, "Padre, do you have any words for us?"

What can be said to people tasked with finding missing toddlers, every shell casings and the person who killed two women?  How can relevance be established by an outsider?
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

 Each shift, a chapter of Proverbs is shared that matches the day of the month.  On the 17th, a pithy reflection was prepared beforehand but an earful of woe, and all eyes on the chaplain, burned the patty-cake, patty-cake right out of me.

What they needed was the assurance that God is just as grieved and sorrowful about senseless acts of murder as each officer is.  Their desire to put a stop to the madness helps them - atheists, pagans, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindi and Muslims - understand the heart of God.  

Thank you, Sergeant.  Jesus, says the scriptures, was the victim of a murder plot.  His assailants were never brought to justice.  Despite the failings of the criminal justice system, He found a way to win.  Officers sometimes bring assailants to justice, but your work also exposes a flawed system.  Jesus overcame a broken system through the resurrection.
Working in a broken system can break us.  In quiet moments, patriots, heroes and public servants alike confess that in what many consider to be the greatest country, something is amiss.  Flags, apple pie, Wi-Fi, baseball, smart devices and self-driving cars are nice but they're not enough.  The system is still broken.  Trying to fix a broken thing, without the Maker of all things, will break us.

We need Jesus, the resurrected One, as we work in a broken system.  Thank you, Sergeant.

Giving them Jesus is a crap shoot: it may or may not work.  Someone may raise their hand and object to a Christ-centered solution.  Walking the line of interfaith dialogue is a delicate thing.  Sending them into the night with anything less than the best I have to offer is a dastardly thing.  

We thank the Lord for the prayer and financial partnerships, strengthening Christian outreach among first responders.


  1. Thank you so much for your continued diligence to be a light shining in the darkness.

    1. Sally, We thank the Lord for sending you with words of life.

  2. Today my phone received two Amber Alerts. The side effects of 18 months of Covid lockdown are revealing its ramifications (abuse, mental health issues, etc.) Despite the world seemingly spinning out of control, we MUST continue to TRUST GOD. Thank you Rev. Alex for spreading God's word in such difficult circumstances and trying situations!

    1. SenegalLANAS, we praise God for your confidence in the Lord. In difficult days, the Word of the Lord remains a trustworthy guide. Thank you for reminding us to trust in the Lord and the power of God's might.