Shift Briefings: Mandatory or Optional?
Written by Ray Fairman   
Like most of you, I have grown up in a profession where there were roll calls or shift briefings before we hit the streets every day, without fail. In fact never did I work for a law enforcement agency that offered optional attendance at these events.

These briefings, often accompanied by short training sessions, always prepared us for the daily grind by passing along the latest information from the preceding shift and alerted us to any pertinent BOLO's that we might need during the upcoming tour of duty. Sometimes the information received at these briefings had little impact on my shift and the incidents I handled, while on other shifts it had a critical impact.

Recently there was a young boy kidnapped and within days, the information passed along to some officers in Missouri, I am sure via BOLO's, resulted in their recognizing a vehicle similar to one I am sure they had been alerted to in a BOLO as being involved in the kidnapping, and the final outcome was not only the return of the kidnapped youngster, but the return of another young man kidnapped some four years prior to this event. I would say that information had a great impact on quite a few folks, wouldn't you?

There is, or should be, a daily roll call or briefing in our spiritual lives too. A time when we get together with God and let Him brief us on His word. Some of us might call it a "quiet time" or a "time of devotion" or maybe a "time of contemplation". No matter what you call it, it should never become an optional time anymore than the briefings or roll calls we attend for our employers. I can't imagine telling my Sgt or Lt that I had decided to only make one or two roll calls a week because I could make better use of my time. Yet many of us do exactly that when we tell God that we just didn't have the time to meet with Him that day. When we think a time of devotion or contemplative prayer is a good idea but optional, we give ourselves the rational of lowering its priority in our lives and most of us will then opt out and lose a real stabilizing base for our daily activities.

We probably are familiar with the basic word "Prayer". But, do we really realize that there are many types of prayer and that each one has its place. There are prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of praise, prayers uttered during critical spiritual battles and prayers of petition for our needs, wants and desires as well as intercessory prayer for the needs of others. Each of these is an important part of each of our prayer lives, but the need for a time of devotional or contemplative prayer is paramount.

How can I say this? Easy, because it is the one area of my own prayer life that gives me the most trouble. I wear a watch and God doesn't. I am harried by the many tasks that I seem never to have enough time for and I am all too ready to relegate my devotional time to the back burner. God shakes His head a great deal of the time at my activities and my secular prioritization I am sure.

When I do get my priorities straightened out and resume my time of devotions and contemplative prayer, God then has the time necessary to work with me on refocusing my life and to speak to me. It may not be a voice I hear out loud, in fact it is usually that still small voice that invades my mind and helps me assess my own life. That still small voice needs a quiet environment. It is in this peaceful environment that we can focus on the matters of the heart and not of the world. We can contemplate our interaction on God's behalf with those people with whom we interact as we go about our professional lives and our personal lives. We can think, during this devotional period, about the way we are conforming or not conforming to the image and will of Christ. Remember the way we interact with others, especially in times of crisis reflects the true character we possess. The real nature of our heart will be made known in our daily activities. All too often many of us fail to take the time to really look at our lives as God looks at them and we fail to give Him the time to assist us with the refocusing we so desperately need. We often fail to see the roots of our personal and professional problems, let alone our spiritual problems.

I seem to recall Jesus saying "...Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him." (Matthew 12: 34-35)

In our early spiritual battles we faced the more obvious temptations of the fleshly or natural man such as lust, ambition and material gain. As our maturity increases we find ourselves facing the more subtle temptations we harbor in our hearts. What will happen if we never take time to examine our hearts?

Each of us needs to make a commitment to make the time every day to meet these enemies and reflect on their defeat. This time must be a disciplined undertaking and must result in our scheduling a specific amount of time daily. Start small so you won't fail to accomplish the task and you can increase the time as you become habitual about it. As you sit contemplatively before The Lord, present him the circumstances and relationships really on your heart. Get used to opening your life up to him, since He already knows everything that is there. Be sensitive to the thoughts and impressions you receive, as they may be the Lord's way of communicating with that still small voice of His. The impressions may be His way of showing us what repentance and growth we need to focus on.

Then, as I bring this to a close, don't forget to act on the messages the Lord leaves with you as you begin to grow in His grace. Learning to do something and never doing it is wasting that education. Work with other mature Christians as you begin this journey. That is why God gave us each other, and remember that obedience to God's instructions, especially those regarding fellowship and mutual accountability, can produce life changing events, while disobedience will definately harden the heart as it it did in Pharaoh's case.

My advice to you is the same as it is to myself.

First examine your prayer life. Is it revolving more around petitionary prayer focusing on your wants desires and needs or is it directed at edifying your spiritual development?

Second, work on disciplining yourself to include a period of devotional or contemplative prayer time to spend with the Lord. Working on increasing the time spent as you develope this most beneficial habit.

Thirdly, as you become more attuned to listening for that still small voice of God, be specific about what you are discussing with Him and expect Him to deal with your issues.

The more exposure you have to God's presence in your life, the more crisp the image of Christ in your life will become. Just as the image on a photographic plate is enhanced by its exposure to intense light. That is what we all desire isn't it? To have the character of Christ, his Humility, His Compassion, His Integrity, His Truth and His Compassion reflected in our own.

My prayer for each of you and myself is that since it seems that we are so impressed by the world, Christ will help us take hold of our lives, attitudes and philosophies and begin to focus them on the proper targets. I pray that He will help all of us discipline ourselves to not only schedule time alone with Him each day, but, to make those appointments a priority in our lives. We so desperately need that time of introspection. Jesus take control of this time and superimpose Your will upon ours, Your nature on ours, Your personality on ours and may the evidence of our time with You be stamped indelibly on our character.

Until next watch, I'll say 10-7 for now

and may God bless you all

Remember, when you came into this world,
you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life for Christ,
with honor, courage, integrity and compassion
and when you leave this world
it will cry and you will rejoice

Ray R Fairman, Ph.D
Winterville GA PD

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