In John 15, Jesus describes a relationship of restful dependence when he invites us to abide in him as branches abide in their vine. It makes perfect sense that the branches that are removed from the vine wither and die and those that remain connected continue to flow with sap and burst with life. (Smith, Mandy. “Unfettered” pg 93)
Day 30 of Russia’s war on Ukraine. The AP ran a story today that stated the estimated CIVILIAN casualties from the March 16 attack on a theater is at least 300 innocent lives. Taking shelter in a theater where the Ukranians had written “CHILDREN” in huge white letters visible from satellite imagery, Russia struck the building in a suspected air strike. President Biden has stated, correctly, that Russia is currently committing war crimes by its indiscriminate attacking of civilians. I saw that the Russians were doing such since day one of the invasion, so I’m not sure why it took so long for world leaders to come to that conclusion. Putin has gone absolutely mad and his terror campaign is continuing unchecked by world powers. After 30 days of murder, I feel like there is no going back from this. NATO is afraid to get involved because it might ignite World War III, but it is too late for that. Russia must be held accountable for this brutality of a peaceful people and nation. Russia picked this war, no one else.
I attempted to put a post together two days ago, but it was rushed. I had nothing really to add that was on a personal level, but I had some important things to share with y’all, which I will get to soon. I forgot to hit post on my blog, so it never sent. Which is fine, because now I have some beautiful stories to share with you.
Yesterday was my birthday. I chose to celebrate it by working a 17-hour shift at work. Last year was a very special birthday and Mrs. Z went above and beyond to bring my very best friends together to help celebrate my 40th. Every year after that momentous celebration is a victory and a testament to God’s grace and glory. I am not one to take a day off just because it is my birthday. It was an emotional day for me. I kissed my beautiful wife and kids goodbye in the morning (I leave for work as they are all asleep). I paused at my daughter’s bedside as I thanked God for another year with her and this precious family He has gifted me with before stepping off into the early morning light.
At work, my Sergeant (who is plugged into the Spirit) had gotten a cake and they all sang happy birthday to me. I thanked them all for being such a great group of men and women to work with. And then we went to work keeping the people of East Savannah safe. It rained, which, I knew was from God. Two days ago, there was no rain on the forecast. But it rained off and on all day. Someone said to me that it sucked the weather was so bad on my birthday, but I know better. I know what the rain means. I love the rain. It keeps the streets clean. Foot traffic is at a minimum, the homeless pandemic in Savannah keeps to their tents, and as long as people drive with regard to the wet roads, accidents are to a minimum as well. So yesterday was a regular day, nothing crazy, a lot of time spent teaching my trainee. I led her and two other officers to PACK and we all helped package food bags for the hungry kids in our community. That was the highlight of my working day. My soul was satisfied. I came in contact with a handful of new faces during the day. My shift was put to task with having one officer stay late because the oncoming shift was four officers short due to training and one calling out sick. None of my co-workers piped up, so I volunteered, thinking that would inspire someone to jump in to say “No way Z, today is your birthday, you are getting off on time.” But all I got was “You’re staying late on your birthday?” and some thank you’s. Regardless, it was just four more hours, which turned to five because of backing up a traffic officer with a DUI stop right when I should have gotten off.
Any way, I fully expected yesterday to go the complete opposite direction. When I paused by my daughter’s bed side it was to say a prayer of thanks for my daughter, and to also ask one little favor, that that goodbye was not my last. Your birthday is always a good day to die, and I thought for sure, this birthday was going to be it. Especially when I ended up staying over. Perfect story line. Officer Z volunteers to stay late on his birthday to help the next watch and gets ambushed at a traffic stop. In America, this should not be a concern for a police officer trying to keep his city safe, but if you do not know the realistic dangers officers are facing every day, just click here. It is happening almost every day. Keeping a mindset that every call, every traffic stop, every interaction with a citizen could be your last, is the mindset you have to maintain as a law enforcement officer in this country at this time. It is sad to write this, but this is the country WE have created. So expecting something horrible to happen, allowed me to keep my head on a swivel and not become another picture on wall.
That obviously did not happen, but what did die was my phone because I did not have a charger, and did not plan on being away from home for such a long time. My phone’s battery ran out right as my shift ended, so I drove home listening to Christian radio and the playlist was another gift just for me from God. Hit after hit had me wrecked, but the song that really touched my soul was “Who You Say I Am” by Hillsong Worship. I have not heard that song in quite some time, and it came in like a wrecking ball on my drive home last night. What an amazing God we serve!
As I listened to the words of that song I thought about all the people God has gifted me with, all those I interacted with just on my birthday. My beautiful, better-half, my crutch, my strength, the amazing Mrs. Z. My daughter, the one who pulled me back to Jesus. My sweet son, who has been an amazing blessing in our little family for the fun and craziness he brings. My amazing Sergeants and their spirit-led-leadership. My brave brothers and sisters in blue that are always ready to put their own lives on the line to protect one another and the people we serve. The citizens of Savannah. The miracle workers at PACK Savannah and the hands of feet of Jesus that show up every Thursday to help pack food for hungry kids in our county and surrounding areas. But what really struck me were the faces of the broken that jumped to the forefront of my mind as I listened to those amazing words: “Who the Son sets free, oh, is free indeed. I am a Child of God. Yes, I am.” I saw the broken, the lost. The homeless man on the corner who we made contact with because I had never seen him in our area before. The homeless man having a mental breakdown that we took to a mental health facility who could barely walk because his feet were wet and covered with blisters and he was asking for a ride so he could check himself in to help break his addiction to cocaine. And the playful toddler who had been the suspected recipient of child abuse who beamed when I gave him a Savannah Police sticker badge. Jesus set us all free. We are all children of the God of Creation. What a perfect way to celebrate the day I was born.
I hope that one day, the entire world will have the same appreciation for everything God has gifted them with in their lives. From the air we breathe to our interactions with God’s greatest creation (that’s you), everyday you are gifted with a million little miracles. Soak it in and do what anyone who gets a gift they did nothing to earn: find a way to pay it forward.
One way to pay the goodness of God forward is through financial means, and Elevation Church had one of the best financial advisors preaching this past Sunday. Being able to give generously is the goal that Dave Ramsey seeks to get all Christians to. The word he shared was funny, touching and inspirational. Click the image below to hear for yourself.
I apologize to you all for not posting more because I am missing out on sharing all kinds of amazing new music. Today’s releases are pretty awesome, but before I get to them, I have one last song to share from LAST Friday. The voice in the song below should be familiar to any fan of Christian music. Taya Smith’s voice reached around the world when Hillsong UNITED released “Oceans,” back in 2013. Those following this blog should recognize her from 2020 when she took lead on “Another in the Fire,” which was our Song-of-the-Year. Well, one week ago, Ms. Smith dropped her first solo single in anticipation of her debut album which will grace the world in May. Click the image below to hear some fresh new music from this beautiful soul.