Just a thought ...

 

As this section has grown it has become necessary to divide it up.  We will maintain current month here and you may go to the Archives to view past posts by the quarter.

April 17 - My family is my reason for living and dying. They were (and still are) the reason I made all the sacrifices I did along the way; working extra jobs while attending Bible College, such as hand-digging ditches in the hot Oklahoma summers in addition to my regular job after class! 9-1-1 calls for help don’t usually arrive at a convenient time, as if the hectic schedule and tiring demands of being a pastor aren’t enough. I'm honored and privileged to carry a Fire Department pager and respond whenever the presence of a chaplain might be helpful. However, my wife has faithfully and willingly followed me through all the years, and the tears, as I have followed God’s call...I couldn't do any of this without her.

 

April 16 - Someone recently commented that my job seems very depressing. Death is a normal part of my world, as it is for everyone else. We all come into contact with the dying and the deceased at some point. As a Police and Fire Chaplain, I had been exposed to gruesome and horrific scenes. Human carnage and suffering is something that you learn to deal with and focus on the task at hand. As Chaplain, I am expected to provide a strong and stable spiritual presence for Police, Fire and EMS as well as victims of tragedy and violence. Somehow the presence of a spiritual figure in times of overwhelming duress can bring a measure of comfort and hope. Life begins and life ends, but never ceases to be. There is a hope for those who believe, that the end is not just an end, but a glorious beginning.

 

April 15 - I’ve spent fifteen of my twenty-five years of ministry responding to emergencies with Fire and Law Enforcement personnel. Suicides, fatal motor vehicle accidents, structure fires, rescue operations and medical calls all have the ability to define the real priorities in life. Responding to a single call where life and death collide are enough motivation for me to continue preaching this gospel of love, forgiveness and divine purpose, because when it comes right down to it, very little else matters when all you’re left with are memories.

 

April 14 - There is so much pain and suffering in this world. People everywhere are vulnerable, exploited, abused, at risk and tempted. It is not my intention to criticize or belittle any particular group or set of beliefs, but the only way to effectively combat deception is to proclaim truth. My purpose is to do the most good and make the biggest difference in as many lives as possible. There really is only one message that matters to the hurting. Someone once said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

 

April 13 - My convictions are not necessarily right for anyone else but me. I’m simply reaching across the lines that divide people in an effort to find ways to help them in their time of need.
My role and position as pastor and chaplain allows me to experience many different aspects of life. My hope is that sharing these experiences, and my interpretation of those experiences, will not only encourage you, but challenge you, and, ultimately, lift you.

 

April 10 - As the ambulance drove away I was grateful for the efforts of a dedicated group of professionals who would continue to do everything they could. But there is another lesson I want to reinforce, and that is this: A successful rescue depends on several factors - it truly is a partnership between people, equipment, agencies, and…intervention from a higher authority. Of course some things are beyond our control, but we must do what is within our control and the part that we cannot do, well, that’s where faith comes in. I do my part; you do your part; and God will do His part...always.

 

April 9 - I was glad to see another chaplain approaching the scene that I've been describing all week. As he made his way over to me, he began trying to determine who the victim was and where they were from – better preparing us for any future role we may play to help other family members deal with this unexpected news. An important lesson to remember is that everyone has their own special part to play in an emergency. Together we comprise a team; a group that has been called by God to intervene on behalf of suffering humanity. As a chaplain I’m thinking ahead, about how to be of service to family and friends if I’m needed - even if it’s just a ride to the hospital.

 

April 8 - It was easy to see the intensity on the faces of the firefighters and paramedics. I wanted to be there for the rescue workers as they did their jobs. You never know when and how things may “hit” you, or how it will manifest. As a pastor I know how important it is for folks to have a spiritual connection during times of extreme stress. Often, just knowing a chaplain is there on scene is a source of encouragement for emergency workers. By now I’m in “full blown” intercession for the driver of the car. I felt an urgency to pray and plead for this life. Now, it’s important to note that I say a prayer each time I respond to a call, but this was one of those times when I knew my inner promptings were not to be taken lightly. Whether or not you believe in spiritual things, I think most people will agree that they appreciate a prayer being offered for them.

 

 

April 7 - While the injured are being treated at the scene of an accident, it’s important to search out those who are standing close by to help steady their nerves. The effects of emotional trauma are sometimes underestimated, and can often lead to long term problems if not handled properly. I have often heard these words from those who are witnesses to tragedy, “I’ve never seen anything like this!” Those images may be hard to forget, and for the average citizen, traumatic death or serious injuries are not commonly experienced. The incident I am discussing this week was emotionally charged and very graphic.

 

April 6 - Several years ago our Fire and Ambulance responded to a call for a "car upside down in the river - unknown how many occupants." During the course of this week I'd like to share some personal thoughts and comments; I believe there's an important lesson for us all in my reflections. One of the very first things I do when arriving on a scene is to look for the visibly shaken. I immediately located two bystanders who were obviously upset – and I offered some words of comfort and encouragement as I tried to determine how they were connected to the victim(s).

 

April 3 - The title of a Good Friday sermon I heard years ago, “It’s Friday but Sunday’s coming,” reminds us that Easter changed everything. On Friday things looked much different than they did on Sunday. No matter what you are going through, regardless of how bad things may seem, Easter means that there is hope for a better future. All you need is faith the size of a grain of mustard seed – and nothing shall be impossible.

 


April 2 - This is my life; it’s not a dress rehearsal. Today, this moment, right now is what I have. Yesterday is gone forever and tomorrow hasn’t arrived – and might not. When I spend time with my grandson, he gets my full and undivided attention. Of course there are the occasional emergency interruptions and unexpected events that pop up, but I have learned (the hard way) that I will not get this day back – ever again. Masyn is growing and changing just as fast as my own children did; just as fast as your own children are (and did). You cannot go back and change what was; so start doing what's right from now.

 

April 1 - I’ve learned an important lesson since my grandson, Masyn, made his entry into our lives four years ago: How to truly live in the moment and enjoy the present without allowing the future to pressure me or the past to hassle me. Our children and grandchildren grow up with or without us. Learn to enjoy every stage of their lives.

March 31 - This month my family will celebrate Easter with joy and excitement. We will also celebrate the birth of our grandson, Masyn. Grand-parenting has been a second chance for me, a gift. I now have the advantage of hindsight and experience that were not available until my own children grew up. Life is very short. I know that now. I must admit that I was very busy trying to “save the world” while my own children were young, spending long hours away from home and giving much of my time and energy to seemingly endless pursuits – all for a good cause, of course. One day I realized that nature had taken its course and tomorrow was yesterday. Yes, Easter is a second chance and so is grand- parenting.

 

 

 

 

Inspiration to serve by ...

March 31 - I heard a sermon years ago about Good Friday and Easter titled, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” The message of Easter is a message of hope and ultimate victory. No matter what, you can rise above every challenge!


 

 

 

March 30 - The month of April reminds us that winter cannot last forever. Spring has the wonderful ability to help us feel like we’re alive again. Also, for many of us, April is a time to celebrate the greatest demonstration of victory and power known to man. Whatever your personal beliefs, or lack thereof, the Easter story is un-rivaled. If your own faith has been challenged lately, let the reality of the resurrection encourage you and remind you that God is bigger than anything you will ever face.

 

 

 

March 27 - Hospital visitation is a familiar duty for any pastor. Many people are admitted into a hospital for one reason or another; some find themselves in an ER unexpectedly and in a matter of minutes their entire world is turned upside down. We simply cannot schedule an emergency for a time that is most convenient for us. No one has ever said, “next Thursday morning I’ve made plans for an unexpected event that’s going to forever change my life.” If you suddenly find yourself in a dark valley, remember this: We are here so that you will never have to walk it alone.

 

 

March 26 - If you suspect someone is thinking about suicide – don’t ignore it. Silence isn’t always better. Encourage them to speak with a trusted friend, their pastor, or family doctor. And, you can always contact a Chaplain through this department – remember, we care about you and we’re here to help. If someone has an actual plan on how they will end their life, and a time when they intend to carry out that plan, you need to act...now.

 

 

March 25 - When dealing with people who are in crisis, try to avoid certain statements such as, “if I were you, here’s what I’d do…” or “don’t worry about it, you’ll be fine.” You can do more harm sometimes by making those glib comments. Remember, telling them everything will be alright doesn’t mean anything when they can’t see it – they believe it’s only going to get worse. And, unfortunately, there are circumstances that will not get any better for some people. That’s when they just need to know you’re there for them. Learn how to just be there without speaking.

 

March 24 - I recently visited a Christian man in the hospital who confided that he wanted someone to “pull the plug.” If he had the strength himself, he would’ve done it. That took me by surprise.
We shouldn't assume a certain person would never be feeling like that. While we don’t need special training to show compassion, there are times when professional help is required; a kind gesture usually isn’t enough to pull them out of a deep, dark depression. However, knowing that someone really cares and is interested in them can mean a world of difference. Be the person who makes a difference today.

 

 

March 23 - I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me, “I kept thinking about what you said to me and, your words helped me through.” It only takes one word – the right one – to instill hope in hopeless situations. A desperate, hurting heart is also an open, searching heart. When people feel that they are sinking, they’re looking for a lifeline to grab onto. What a privileged position to be in, when you are entrusted with authority - you can reach people in ways others cannot.

 

 

March 20 - Have you ever observed school children at play before they are “influenced” by the systems and cultures adults create? Kids are not born prejudiced. Sure, they recognize and respond to differences, but they’re pretty innocent until we adults change all that. What would happen if we referred to each other as just people? Why can’t we just let the one who best qualifies get hired, regardless of gender or skin color? I’ve seen blood spilled by many different ethnic and gender groups…funny how it’s all the same color. And since you wanted to know, there really are not atheists in foxholes or crumbling buildings – maybe that’s where legislation, culture, and policies should be developed.

 

March 19 - A police officer shared with me one of his defining moments on the job. Responding to what was considered a “routine” call, as he exited his squad car; bullets tore into the door and hood. There was never a mention, or even a thought, about the color of skin or gender of the person or persons who fired those shots – just that a chaplain almost had to be sent to his home that night. You know what else had no bearing on this moment-of-terror for the police officer that day? Political correctness and the separation of church and state were the farthest things from his mind. Certain policies accomplish little more than jeopardize the safety and performance of our police officers and firefighters. The goal must always be to return them back home safely after every tour. I’ll share my concluding thoughts tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

March 18 - On Monday I described a terrible fire scene and the valiant effort by firefighters to save lives. One of the victims I mentioned didn’t care who came to save her. In fact, the firefighter didn’t seem too concerned either about the differences of their skin color, because the real enemy wasn’t race, religion, or gender that day. I believe that everyone needs at least one good defining moment; when life and death come crashing together and define what’s really important in this life. It would help strip away the self-serving endeavors of misguided people, and reveal our vulnerabilities and dependence upon each other when in crisis. I’ll share more on this tomorrow.

March 17 - The scene I described in yesterday’s post came at a time when I was engaged in a “heated” debate regarding guidelines mandating the hiring of certain ethnic and gender groups for police and fire departments. The “race issue” was, and still is, a topic of great concern. But just what is the real issue here anyway? Is it racial profiling? Do we have an issue with gender or religious discrimination? Of course, it all depends on your point of view and what’s happening at the time. One of the hard truths here is that our responses to these issues often divide people, rather than unite them. Another sad fact is that there are some folks who have their own agenda, and they prey upon the ignorance of others. They’ll jump into the mix, fostering confusion, and create more problems rather than offer real solutions; resulting in qualified candidates being removed from a hiring list and replaced with candidates with a lower score. Tomorrow I’ll share more about this.

 

March 16 - I saw it with my own eyes. It was the type of surreal moment encountered by police and fire professionals on a routine basis with little time for reflection or commentary. The scene was a large multi-residence structure fire with report of victims trapped inside. This was the kind of alarm that gets the adrenaline pumping for sure. As a lifeless victim was passed through a second story window into the arms of another firefighter waiting on the roof beneath, there was a pause long enough to administer some breaths before descending the ladder. The look of frustration and determination on the firefighters face was clearly visible as he continued working on his little patient, her arms and legs dangling like a rag doll. I have never forgotten those images or one of the lessons learned that day. Over the next few days I’ll share some important thoughts on this.

 

March 13 - Leaders don’t just lead when things are easy and the goal or mission popular. Leaders see the big picture and begin initiating the necessary changes from now – even when no one else understands. Folks aren’t always going to like you and agree with your decisions. And you can bet your life on this…many want to share the glory but none want the blame. My prayer for Leaders everywhere: “Oh, God, give them thick skin.”
 

March 12 - We all ultimately leave our organizations. Whether you retire, get fired, or just expire, you will not stay where you’re at forever. Change is a simple fact of life. It’s just as important how you leave your organization as how you start in it. A wise leader prepares his or her organization for their inevitable departure.

March 11 - While change is absolutely inevitable, your commitment to personal growth and progress is optional. You, and only you, are still responsible for you. Let that soak in awhile!

 

March 11 - For those in leadership positions - with the “burden of command” a fellow minister once said that change was very “difficult to undertake, perilous to conduct, and uncertain in its success.” Now, you may not agree with this observation but when you think about it, change is a direct threat to our present comfort zone. Flexibility is certainly an important key to working with change. Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.

 

 

March 9 - Ready or not here it comes. It’s what we cannot stop. Something we will embrace or resist; welcome or resent; facilitate it or be overcome by it. It’s a little something called “change.” Change is inevitable. Some changes are necessary and some are optional. At times it’s for the good. Many changes just happen…such as the price of gas and aging! It's the nature of this life. You may be leaving one season and entering into the next. Do Not Fear Change! Move forward gracefully; with courage and confidence, and the God of peace will be with you.


March 6 - We’re all just passing through this brief life and get to dance upon planet earth for only a very short time…so don’t waste another precious minute by living in the past. Time is much too valuable to waste dwelling on failures and regrets. When you refuse to let go of yesterday – for whatever reason – you forfeit your tomorrow. It’s been said that a wise man learns from his mistakes; but a wiser man learns from the mistakes of others. Learn from the great multitudes of those who have gone ahead, and don’t waste any more time looking back. Let go of yesterday, live today, and reach for tomorrow.

 

March 5 - To live each day to the fullest doesn’t mean to live without restraint. We shouldn’t just throw caution to the wind simply because we want to enjoy every moment. We can have a very rewarding and meaningful life while exercising wisdom and diligence. Remember this; you are creating a legacy every single day – good or bad. What are you going to be remembered for? To my community I want to be remembered as a man who loved people and served God whole-heartedly. To my children I want to be remembered as “Dad” (not the busy pastor), who loved their mother and cherished them – not things. To my grandchildren I want to be remembered as their loving “Pa” who was their biggest fan. The people you leave behind will have to live with the consequences of your choices. Make it a legacy they’ll be proud of.

 

March 4 - In my more than twenty-five years of ministry I’ve been privileged to help countless precious souls transition from this life to the next. I’ve prayed and wept with family members as they said good-bye to their loved ones. And I’ve done my very best to celebrate their lives and send them off with honor and dignity. Here is one thing I have never heard from the dying: “If only I spent more time at the office (away from my family)…” Nor have I ever heard surviving family members say that they had more-than-enough-time with their dearly departed. Death has the matchless ability to put things into perspective. Life is short. Treat every day as if it were last, because one day it will be. When all you’re left with are the memories, you’ll wish you had done and said all those things that you didn’t.

 

 

March 3 - A chaplain is generally associated with tragedy, so it’s easy to understand why folks don’t want to see one standing at their door. One of the more difficult parts of the chaplain’s job is to help the authorities deliver bad news. No one should have to walk through that dark and lonely valley alone, so when our chaplain division is called to respond, we will not leave a family until they have a support system in place. We all leave this earth eventually; no exceptions. I’ll share some thoughts in the next several posts to help you and your family prepare for the inevitable.


Inspiration to serve by ...

March 3 - The only person that can stop you from becoming what God intends for your life is you. (Unknown)

 

 

February 28 - Enjoying the Vegas sunshine with "Little Granny." My wife's grandmother is ready to meet Jesus in person at 98 years young! I cannot express how grateful I am for her example of love, devotion, and forgiveness. Her beautiful spirit is the legacy she leaves behind and lives on in my wonderful wife, amazing mother-in-law, and the rest of their family. Thank you Little Granny for a family legacy that I cherish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 27 - FIRST DUE FAMILY is committed to teaching you how to breathe the air of heaven when you are engulfed in the toxic breath of hell. You are never, ever alone!

 

February 25 - “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” (Abraham Lincoln)
Those who confront death and destruction head-on understand the importance of being on God's side - not in being politically correct.

February 20 - I recently had a conversation with a retired U.S. Air Force pilot regarding the evil and misguided group known as ISIS. His warning was simple: What they really want goes much deeper than being "common thugs." Let me add this, bullies are never interested in a debate about civil rights, ethics, or morality. Vigilance, education, and awareness are all vital to protecting ourselves, but peace within and without our borders comes through unequivocal power and strength. We should worry less about being politically correct or culturally relevant, and be more concerned with being unified and strong. Be careful about who or what you allow to define and prioritize the issues for you.


February 19 - When your relationship with God is hit or miss so is everything else in your life.

 

February 17 - Since the beginning of the organized fire service local clergy have been appointed as chaplains to assist firefighters and their families in times of crisis and to help them with their emotional and spiritual needs. The chaplain's ministry in the firehouse and police stations also extends out to the community in many different ways. As police, fire and EMS personnel respond to calls for help, a chaplain has traditionally been available in a supportive role for the emergency workers and for the victims of tragedy. The chaplain is a spiritual presence on-scene and is there to bring encouragement and comfort, as well as to assist the authorities in whatever capacity needed. The chaplain works with and through multiple agencies in order to care for the scene's holistic needs; a faith-based resource, the chaplain is available to everyone regardless of religious or political beliefs. Your department can benefit in many ways from this important component of public service.

 

 

February 16 - Every where I go there is tragedy and heartache, pain and suffering, and Police, Fire and EMS families often deal with unanswered questions, while finding their own faith challenged. During times of extreme duress or when we experience a crisis of our own personal faith it will help to remember the following: First of all, the fact that people still turn to faith, prayers and their houses of worship for comfort and solace is evidence that we are a nation of such. These things are at the core of who we are. When people automatically turn to God it should remind us that we really are connected to, and dependent upon, something or someone greater than ourselves. It's ok to have doubts and unanswered questions, but still ask for guidance, help, or strength. It's perfectly natural to make provision for the "spiritual" part of our makeup and is actually a good idea to have such provision in place for when tragedy strikes. If prayer vigils, reading of Bible verses, lighting of candle and inter-faith church services are an encouragement and not a violation of anyone's civil rights during a national tragedy, then it's certainly not a violation at any other time of the year either. Next, sometimes there are no real answers as to why or how things happen. That's when you must focus on finding ways to heal and move forward. Things may never be the same again, but life goes on. It always does. How will you go on with it? That's the real question. Yes, there are legitimate concerns, investigations to conduct, opinions to share, theories to discuss, statistics and legislation to follow. But we must learn to band together - church and state - to protect communities as best we can and to find strength and hope to move forward. Finally, our Police, Fire and EMS are on the front lines every day. In the darkest blackness of human carnage and suffering they intervene on behalf of mankind in the direst of circumstances. There is no higher calling than to spend your life in service to others. The sacred duty of saving lives and protecting property is a ministry and proof that God does not abandon or forsake us in the storm, but has ordained these public-service-ministers to stand in the gap. We are never alone. Ever.

 

 

February 14 - You cannot lead anyone else farther than you have been able to go yourself. I am more grateful than I could ever express for the people in my life who have believed in me, encouraged me, and allowed me to go as high as I dare to go in this life of faith.

February 11 - "You are the same today that you are going to be in five years from now except for two things: the people with whom you associate and the books you read." -Charles "Tremendous" Jones

 

 

 

 

February 9 - The entire world falls into one of two categories - and it's not rich or poor, black or white, educated or not, Jew or Greek, not even male or female. None of these distinctions exist in Christ. God sees Believers and Non-Believers. Your church affiliation or denominational preference is irrelevant in the world of true biblical faith.

February 7 - I’ve been asked time and again, “As Christians, what’s our response to (fill in the blank) supposed to be?” Well, I’ve been preaching the answer for the last twenty-five years. Some of us get it, some of us don’t. What if the evil in this world is much worse than we’ve believed? What if the answer for that evil is much simpler than we’re willing to admit? Well, guess what? It is worse than what some are willing to believe, but the answer is also just as simple as it’s always been. Those of us who get it, must continue to preach the answer as BOLDLY as we can – full strength and one-hundred proof, without diluting it with political correctness and seeker friendliness. As we sit in the comfort of our homes, offices, churches or coffee shops, there are people experiencing evil in ways I pray you and I never will. In their own way, thankfully, many are trying to make this world a better place. Others confront that evil face-to-face on foreign battlefields, or while keeping watch within our own borders. If the words of a song from the early ‘70’s, “I’d love to change the world…but I don’t know what to do…” echo your own thoughts and feelings, remember this: When you reach the end of yourself, you find the beginning of God. As long as we insist on avoiding offending everyone but the God of Christianity, and as long as we refuse to stand firmly united together as one, and as long as the misguided lunatics of the world do not fear the United States, we will continue to ask the same questions, and sing the same songs.

 

February 5 - For all of you who have been hurt, taken advantage of, lied to, cheated on, stolen from, and accused, remember this: We get to live with the power of our own hate by refusing to forgive. Let it go and discover true freedom.

 

 

February 4 - Sometimes we are so glued to our devices that we miss out on the amazing things that are happening right around us! 

 

February 1 - Here's a Super Bowl Sunday thought for you: Just like the Quarterback is an extension of the Head Coach, so are we, as Christians (the Body of Christ) extensions of the Head of the Church (Jesus Christ). Just like a successful Football team requires intimacy between the QB and the Head Coach on and off the field, so do we require intimacy with our Head - the Lord Jesus, in and out of church. Your success in this life depends on your intimacy with God.

 

January 31 - "And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans." Romans 8:28 (The Living Bible) Believe it! Count on it!

 

Inspiration to serve by ...

January 29 - “You and God always make the majority.” Pastor Gary Cortese

 

January 27 - Many Christians say the church should be more like first century Believers. Well, here's a thought...The early church wouldn't be using social media to judge, complain, criticize and slander. Instead, they would unite together and pray for boldness to speak the Word of God in the midst of opposition.
   

 

The apostle Paul desired an audience with Rome, not to protest, or try to change the political and social climate, but to preach CHRIST! The preaching of the Gospel eventually did change Rome, and will effect real change wherever it is proclaimed and believed. The early church had it's problems, but operated in real Holy Ghost power, not artificial hype and hysterics. They weren't being bullied by political correctness, trying to entertain the people and compromise the message. Just saying... :-)

 

January 24 - Discover your real identity and you will fulfill your true destiny.

 

January 23 - Inspiration to serve by ...

 

January 23 -

 

 

January 19 - I overheard a commercial today regarding Martin Luther King, Jr. Day The message said simply, "It's time to talk about race." Well, I respectfully submit the following 7-minute YouTube Video to remind Christians what the priority really is. Everything else will line up as a matter of course. Please give yourself 7 uninterrupted and quiet minutes and click on to this video.

 

January 14 - “As a professing Christian, it’s your behavior – not your doctrine, that causes people to make a decision for or against Christ.”
-Pastor Gary Cortese, Chaplain

 

 

January 12 -

 

January 9 - After 30 years of ministry, a pastor made this shocking statement to his wife: "Pastoring our church has destroyed my relationship with Jesus Christ." Whatever your "ministry" is, no matter what you are doing for God, never, ever forget that YOU are much more important to God than what you DO for God. You don't have to be a big, strong man or woman with Him, either, just His little boy or girl.

 

 

 

 

January 5 - Inspiration to serve by ...

Don’t Argue with God. Just Report for Duty.

 

January 1 -

 

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