Doc’s thoughts on suicide.

DISCLAIMER: If you are contemplating suicide, please call the Suicide Help line at 1-800-273-8255.

I am going to discuss a subject that no one likes to talk about. And relate it to a group that most people prefer to shun or ignore. And let you in on a dark secret I’ve held in my heart and a fight I’ve waged from before. This may be a hard read (and I am sure it will be a hard WRITE), but sometimes we have to speak up and “strike while the iron is hot” so to speak.

By this point, I am sure that you have heard about the death of Robin Williams. How he died too young (63), the impact he had made, or about the times that something he did deeply impacted someone’s life. One that got me moving early on was a line from Dead Poet’s Society “Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Do not be resigned to that. Break out! “

You’re going to hear a lot of commentators talk about depression, mental illness and how they relate to suicide and how they are different. But I’m not going to get to in depth in those areas. You may hear theological debates on “if it’s forgivable” or something like that. I’m not going there either. Determining who gets into Heaven is above my pay grade. What I do want to point out is the “peace” (or lack thereof) that comes with suicide.

I want to say that there is no “peace” in suicide. If you do not believe that, ask the survivors – the family and friends of those who took their own life. They have so many questions, and most they will never have an answer for. There is guilt (“Maybe I could have stopped it”, “If they had just told me”). In addition to the other normal emotions during a time of loss, there is a regret that they did not get to say their goodbyes.

And I’m sure that you have guessed the “group that most people prefer to shun or ignore” is the Law Enforcement community. According to statistics, an officer is 2-5 times more likely to be killed by themselves than they are by a suspect. They also tell us that over 30% of officers have thought about suicide at some point in their career, and that an officer is twice as likely to commit suicide on the night shift than any other shift.
We in the Miami Valley are not immune from these trends, having had one locally in the last few months. So how do we turn the tide?

1. Never assume that anyone is immune to it. Who thought Robin Williams would have taken his own life?
2. Know the signs of distress. If someone is openly talking about it, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY.
3. If you (or someone you know) needs help, SEEK IT!

Let’s not allow this tragedy to be in vain. We watch out for each other on duty all the time. Watch out for this too.

Some of you may be thinking about it now. Life isn’t “worth it” anymore. No one cares about you. Your spouse is not speaking to you. You are “at the end of your rope”. One of my instructors in Bible School told this story.
Several years ago, my brother was allowed to witness an open-heart surgery. During the procedure, the patient’s heart had been stopped from beating. When it came time to restart it, despite repeated attempts, the medical staff was unable to cause the heart to beat again. Finally, although the patient was obviously unconscious, the surgeon leaned over and spoke into the patient’s ear, “We need your help. We cannot get your heart restarted. Tell your heart to start beating.” Incredibly, in that instant, the patient’s heart began to beat again!

Here is the dark secret I promised. At one point in my own life I have experienced some what I would call “mild depression”, and even thought about “ending it all”. (Do not be alarmed, it hasn’t been recently). And up until now I never really shared that with anyone. I was afraid of what people would think or what would happen I guess. But I’m a stronger person today thanks in part to those experiences, which is one of the reasons that the subject is still a soft spot in my heart.

So if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, talk to someone. You CAN be happy again. You CAN live life to the fullest. You can touch others with your story. You can tell your heart to “beat again”. So live! Reach out!
If I can help you in any way, contact me!

DISCLAIMER: If you are currently contemplating suicide, please call the Suicide Help line at 1-800-273-8255.

Please distribute to all Law Enforcement, Paramedic and Fire personnel: Happy Fourth of July

First let me apologize for the lateness of this message. As always, I want to say a big thank you to all who has made it possible for me to distribute this message. I cannot express my gratitude enough for your assistance. I also want to thank each of you reading this. It’s always my goal that something said in these notes will encourage, inspire or uplift you in some way. I know you’re busy and you do a lot to get ready for your shift. So thank you for reading.

As we near the Fourth of July, Independence Day here in America, we take time to remember the sacrifices of those before us. Those who pledged “to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Writing some years after the events of the Revolutionary War, John Quincy Adams wrote, “Posterity, you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.”

But for those of us in and around public safety, we know that lots of people are not making “good use of it.” There are humans inflicting all manner of evil on each other and sometimes we feel as if we are not accomplishing anything. Not to mention storms and natural disasters. Sometimes we get “weary in well doing”. Sometimes we think we are not making a difference. Sometimes we almost give up. I know what that feels like.

I just finished World War Z with my son. It was a good movie, but I think I have a theory. It’s not zombies or smallpox or aliens or some weather disaster that will cause the world to disintegrate into chaos. I think it is growing darker as people care less. It grows darker as people stop looking out for each other. It grows darker as we hide in fear or self-preservation, or the less we speak out for truth, good, and justice. It grows darker as WE grow darker.

So what do we do? I know that you are out there “fighting the good fight”. Please know, I don’t say this lightly. I say this to some of the strongest people I know. I say it for people who I have seen with my own eyes fight all kinds of evil for a fellow officer, EMT, or firefighter. I just ask that you take courage and fight just a little harder. Fight for each other. Fight for what is right. Keep up that fight! Keep marching toward evil and fighting back the darkness! Are you tired? Feel hopeless? Reach out to a brother or sister. Reach out to a supervisor, chief or Chaplain. But whatever you do, don’t give up and don’t give in. If you need help, ASK. If you can give help, SPEAK UP.

That is what can change our world for the better. We are in this together.

In closing, as always, thank you so much for all you do. I’ve said it before and will say it again, you all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.

Police Week 2014 – Prayer points

Each year I post some prayer thoughts for Police Week. Most of this is taken from a note I did in 2012, but added some modifications each year. For all my law enforcement friends, spouses, and Chaplains: If you think of anything to add, let me know!

I’m asking all my friends to pray for our Police Officers this week more than any other. May 11-17 this year is Police Week. It was designated by President Kennedy in “recognition of the service given by the men and women who, night and day, stand guard in our midst to protect us through enforcement of our laws”. I’ve listed some “prayer targets” for each day. This is a work in progress, so as I find things or as other officers give me suggestions, I’ll update the list. Also, you will see some action “ideas”. The book of James tells us that “faith without works is dead.” So do something. Get involved. Be kind. Make a difference.

Romans 13:1-4 tells us “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”

Saturday 10th-Sunday 11th – Safe trips to DC, local memorials

Monday 12th – Community support for officers
-Prayer targets:
— Officers would be honored in the communities they serve.
– Officers would not be hated for doing their job-upholding the law and correcting law-breakers.
— Officers love simple tokens of appreciation. By their lunch when one is in the drive-thru behind you.
– When you see businesses giving officer discounts, let the manager/owner know that you appreciate that.
– Get involved. Call/visit your local police department (during business hours) and ask them what you can do to help.
– Post blue lights in your windows to show your respect for officers.
– Join/start a neighborhood watch.
– Greet them when you see them in public.

Tuesday 13th – Officer Safety
-Prayer targets:
— That no department would have to choose something else over officer safety due to small budgets.
– Officers would have wisdom and safety in all situations.
– Pray Isaiah 54:17 -No weapon formed against them shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against them in judgment will be condemned.
— Have your house number in a location where it can be seen in the event they need to respond to you.
– Only use 911 in cases of emergency.
– If you are stopped pull over as far to the right as possible so that, when the officer comes up to your widow, he or she won’t have to worry about being clipped by vehicles in the right lane.
– Do NOT get out of your car unless the officer asks you to do so.
– If a police car is coming behind you with its siren blaring or emergency lights flashing, pull over to the right safely and quickly.

Wednesday 14th – Officer families
Note: Officers have a higher rate of divorce than the general public.
-Prayer targets:
— That the families might know peace when their loved ones are on duty.
– That the families have understanding when the officer they love is under stress.
– That officers would be able to separate work and home, and that their families can support them in times of stress, and know that their stress is not directed to them.
— If you are fortunate enough to know a police officer, offer to babysit while they go out with their wives.
– If you know an officer and you can see he is having a rough time, just be available. They don’t have to tell you what’s going on, but they may need someone to talk to.
– If an officer tells you something in confidence, KEEP IT IN CONFIDENCE. Don’t tell the neighborhood that an officer is struggling in their marriage.
– Be good neighbors and human beings. How do you want people to treat YOUR family?

Thursday 15th – Officer Seclusion, isolation
-Prayer targets:
— That an officer will never feel isolated from his peers or superiors.
– That an officer will never feel like they are facing their struggles alone.
– Pray that God would send good and trustworthy friends into their lives.
— If you are fortunate enough to know a police officer, invite their family to your house for a cookout.
– When you see an officer, discretely and kindly ask if they would like you to pray for anything. And don’t be offended if you hear “No.”

Friday 16th – Mental stress, anxiety, suicides
Note: Most officers will shy away from talking about this. Officers are taught control from day one. If they are not in control, someone could die. When officers lose the ability to control their circumstances, self-doubt may set in. Officer suicides are two times higher than the general public.
-Prayer targets:
— That an officer will not struggle with self-doubt.
– That an officer will never feel like they are facing their struggles alone.
– Pray that departments would give good stress detection and suicide prevention programs.
– Pray that officers would always see a way through the pain and struggles they face.
– Ability to relax off-duty – Officers are human beings and need to rest.
— If you are fortunate enough to know a police officer, invite their family to your house for a cookout.
– If an officer tells you something in confidence, KEEP IT IN CONFIDENCE. Don’t tell the neighborhood that an officer is struggling in his marriage.
– When you see an officer, discretely and kindly ask if they would like you to pray for anything. And don’t be offended if you hear “No.”

Saturday 17th- Departments and families of 2013 Line of Duty deaths
Note: There were 105 deaths in the “Line of Duty” in 2013 (Not including 17 K9 officers). Over 90 departments across the United States will honor names added to “the wall” in DC.
-Prayer targets:
— That officers and families would experience healing from the pain of their loss.
– That departments would develop programs for support before they are needed.
– Pray that officers would not experience “survivor’s guilt” .
— Contact your local police department/Sheriff’s office to see if they have any memorial events. Attend them.
– If your local dept has memorial gardens, plaques, or stones, visit them. They died protecting you and your family.

Distribution: Please distribute to all law enforcement personnel – Police Week 2014

As always, I want to say thank you to everyone who has made it possible for me to distribute this message. I cannot express my gratitude enough for your assistance. I also want to thank you, the reader. I can’t personally shake your hands or buy you lunch. I can, however, let you know that people DO care. This message is being read by departments of all shapes and sizes. To each of you, welcome. I know you’re busy and you do a lot to get ready for your shift. So thank you for reading.

May 11-17 this year is Police Week. It was designated by President Kennedy in “recognition of the service given by the men and women who, night and day, stand guard in our midst to protect us through enforcement of our laws”. We are going into a time of remembrance. There will be local, state and national memorials. Locations may vary from the front of the building, in restaurants, pubs or the national memorial in Washington D.C. It’s a time to remember our fallen and to honor their courage and sacrifice. I think one of the best way to honor them, is to live better lives ourselves.

I was watching a video last week where a motivational speaker was talking about the speech below. It is a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt, and I think it is very fitting for you to remember. You have a job where you are constantly second-guessed by the public. So read this quote and let it soak in.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I’ve been privileged to see some of the “inner workings” of what goes on, good and bad. But you are out there doing the job every day. You are out there in the “dust and sweat and blood” doing what you do best. And the secret that some of you don’t let out is this: Sometimes the dragon wins. Sometimes despite out best efforts, things go wrong. Despite all the efforts, there are still DUI’s, meth labs and domestics to go to. But do you give up? No way! You keep pushing back the darkness. You keep attacking evil, even in its home court! You keep going to the same house and pulling someone out who is high, drunk or beating on someone else. You keep up the pressure. That’s what I call someone who “spends himself in a worthy cause”. We might never see the end of the evil that people inflict on others, but that doesn’t keep us from fighting, and that’s why you are amazing.

In closing, some of you will be heading to Washington for the National Memorial, and I hope for a safe trip. Others are going because you know someone being added to the wall. My thoughts and prayers are with you for safety, as well as healing. But for all of you, I hope and pray that not only will the week be safe, but the rest of the year as well. I hope there is an outpouring of appreciation from the communities that you serve.

In closing, thank you for all you do. I’ve said it before and will say it again, you all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.

An open letter to a Dispatcher

While I was getting some thoughts for my next email (for Police Week 2014) that will be going out in a week or so, I felt the need to stop and converse for a minute on some people who are really special to me.

For those of you who know my story know how it started. Here is the basic story that I tell “This began while I was thinking on the events of 9/11 in 2008. One of the last “moment of silence” was for the fire fighter that was the last survivor removed. During that moment, a gratitude for our law enforcement and fire crews really “came to life” so to speak. That evening I called my local department (Huber Heights, OH) on 9/11 and asked if they could let the officers and fire fighters know my appreciation for them. I was informed that they had not had that request in over 14 years. So that’s when I decided that I would reach as many as I could and let them know they are cared about.”

What seems to both of us like a moment of candor and honesty, has turned into a real life purpose for me. It’s been said that there are two great days in your life. When you are born, and when you figure out WHY you were born. That day really started the journey for me to figure out WHY I was born. When I talked to the dispatcher that night, it really came alive in me. Now, 750 departments hear from me. I’m a Chaplain for a few Police Departments directly and available to others as mutual aid. I’ve been in hospitals, funerals, more ride alongs that anyone I know and my life is dramatically different now. I won’t say who it is since I didn’t get her permission, but I have told her on a few occasions what that conversation meant to me that day. My life has been changed forever. Who did God use? It wasn’t a friend, or even a minister. It was a Dispatcher.

This week is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. A time when we express our gratitude to those who are behind the mics and phones telling us all what to do and where to go. I’ve sat in the HHPD dispatch for a while on a couple of occasions. I hear them in action every time I’m in one of our cars. I know that we are in good hands when I hear their voices. They are just plain awesome.

I want to give shout outs to another dispatch too. Now I’ve heard lots, but in a trying time, these voices kept it all together. When I went to Menifee County after the tornadoes in 2012, I rode with the Sheriff’s Office there. Even in the middle of all kinds of stuff going on, the Menifee County dispatch team was on top of it. Here’s the picture: It’s two days after the touchdown. We have 2 people confirmed dead, and damages to numerous residences. Power lines still lay in some roads and the National Guard was blocking off the worst hit area. It is 10 PM at night, getting colder. On top of all this, opposite side of the county, a domestic violence call. Then it started snowing. All this going on, and the lone dispatcher was holding the county together. She was in control. And even though some of this area had just been through hell, you’d never know it to her the radio transmissions. I was amazed.

SO to all my dispatcher friends (and readers) out there, never forget that you are AWESOME. Never forget that YOU can make a HUGE difference in someone’s life. You are the voice we count on. You may not get enough credit for what you do, but it does not go un-noticed. So, if any of you guys ever need anything, you let Doc know.

Weighing in on the “Duck Dynasty” controversy

OK…I’m weighing in. There are some things that I do not post on Facebook (or anywhere else in public view) that I truly believe. And there are some things posted to my wall that I remove. I do this, not because I question who I am, but the respect I have for my position. Let me explain.

While I do not speak for any organization directly, there are some people who see me as “the Chaplain from Huber Heights”. So, even though I do not speak for the city, or it’s Police Department, I do not tend to be controversial. As a matter of principle, I try to avoid it.

I truly believe in Freedom of Speech. I truly believe in (to use common terms) my religious principles. My relationship with God isn’t negotiable. It’s not up for debate. My good friends likely know where I stand on any issue. I have stood for the Constitution and pledged my life to it’s defense before, and will if I ever need to again. So if you want to say anything, it’s a free country. Me and millions of others have worked to keep it that way.

My goal on Facebook and on my blog is not to trumpet who I am and what I believe. If you do , that’s OK. Freedom of Speech is working as it is designed. My goal on Facebook is to keep in touch with family, and keep my supporters updated on my “ministry”:to show support for First Responders and Public Safety forces, honor our fallen, and encourage those who remain. Will I post some things along the way that folks may disagree with, or even may find offensive? Probably.

Here is the only opinion I will offer publicly: This is not a “Freedom of Speech” issue (as I see it). The constitution says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. The government is not restricting Phil Robertson’s speech, it’s A&E, in a sense one of his “employers”. Just like I can go to work and tell my boss that “You’re doing a bad job” or “I hate the way you….”. I can do that. It’s a free country. And my employer has the right to show me the door. My speech is protected, but I am not protected from the outcomes of my speech. If you want to claim it’s media double-standard you can. You can claim it’s people harassing country folks. You can claim it’s a bias against Christianity. Is it true? Maybe. But that’s for better minds than mine to decide. But the way I see it, it’s not a problem with “Freedom of Speech”.

I owe it to the Huber Heights Police Division and the Butler Township Police Department to not do anything (in word or deed) that would cast a negative light on them. And as a friend pointed out, in the last four days we have lost 3 good officers and 2 firefighters: heroes. I owe it to them to make sure they are not forgotten. I owe it to those who remain to be ready to help them if they need it.

Please distribute to all Police, Paramedic and Fire personnel – Merry Christmas

First, I again want to say thank you to all the Chiefs, Sheriffs, Officers, Administrators, and fellow Chaplains who have made it possible for me to distribute this message.

I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season. For those of you in stations or cars working during the holidays, we appreciate the sacrifices you and your family are making while ensuring our safety and security. It does not go unappreciated or unnoticed.

It’s that time of the year again. The Holidays can be a source of wonderful joy. I look forward every year to having some down time, spending time with my family, and going back to my home town to see more of my family. And there’s always a stop (or two or three!) at a police station or fire house to spread more of my support.  It’s a time of traditions. Most of us have them, though yours and mine are likely different. I know that some of you reading this will be working those days. Some of you volunteered so the department newlywed can have that first Christmas with his new bride or the new father with his newborn on Christmas morning. Some of you will be busy at work when I crawl out of bed on Christmas morning, or will hear the tones drop multiple times that night. Some of you will do it in freezing temperatures, and others will do it in warm ones. You will change your holiday schedule and family time around your work, and may not even think about it because “That’s what I do.” As a Chaplain, I’ve been privileged to see some of what goes on “behind the scenes”. I hear the stories and see the sacrifice. Lots of us do. Don’t ever forget that. But if you do, you know where to find me. So, do Doc a favor this Christmas. Have a great time. Be with people you love during the Holidays. Find some time to relax. Do something that makes YOU happy. Sit and enjoy some warm cocoa, or a cold drink (a good raspberry tea is my drink of choice) and enjoy it. You deal with the bad enough. Find some good and soak in as much as you can.

During the holidays, I always put in this information, because I know that someone may need it. The holidays are meant to be times of joy, happiness, time with those we love and hope. While it can produce stress for even the best of us, for some of you can be a time of sadness, frustration or depression. It can be hard to balance out what you have to deal with and still know that there are great people in society as well. I also know that it’s hard for us to reach out sometimes (and I’m no exception to this rule). If you find yourself struggling in this holiday season, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance. Your departments may have Employee Assistance Care, Chaplains, Chiefs, and any other Supervisor available for help. There is also other Clergy and/or even friends for guidance and assistance should you need it. My phone is always on and I’ll make myself available to help you in any way that I can. Call us, grab us after roll call, send an email. Reach out if you need to.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and best wishes for 2014. I’ve said it before and will say it again, you all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.