Picket Fences

I have been asked several times “What is a Chaplain, what do they do?” My response is usually that I am a gate builder, I build gates.

If you have been in law enforcement longer than a few days you notice that among the brethren there are Picket Fences, the nice little fences that remind you of safety and family. The state troopers have a stately brown fence, the municipal officers a blue one, sometimes white. The county deputies is brown too but I have seen some nice looking green ones. Every law enforcement agency has one. Even churches have them, and there’s a huge one that separates every fire department from every police department. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not complaining or speaking negatively about these fences, they are in most cases a necessity for a variety of reasons. My job is to build and maintain the gates. The fence lines are drawn and maintained on both sides, the love/hate relationship that exists between law enforcement family, other first responders, and society. Some may view theirs as a fortress wall, or a barbed wire fence, but they are only the familiar little Picket Fences.

The reason for the fences in law enforcement is still a mystery to me since they aren’t that vastly different in the heroic job they choose to do every day. They may just differ a little in jurisdiction, policies, politics, and the color of the uniform, but they still remain The Thin Blue Line. It takes all 1,000,000 officers, deputies, troopers, marshals, agents, constables and the brass thereof in this country to create this critical line of defense from the chaos all around us. I do my best to understand why there is disunity and natural distance kept by each agency for one another. One isn’t really better than the other. Each one has a vital and unique role to keep our country safe. Being from a LEO household for the past 28 years I understand fireman need heroes so I do get the “First Responder” bucket fence. Little humor there…

As a police chaplain I try to build and maintain gates for these fences. I know I may never knock the fence down but getting a gate in, we all have the freedom, and a reason to visit one another. It’s kind of the same thing with faith. I build gates for LEOs and families to have a clear path and direction to God. Sometimes it’s just a visit for a stress issue, a faith challenge, or just questions and doubts about all the whys they logically ask when watching the damage people do to the innocent. Sometimes we walk through the gate together and sit awhile because a marriage is disintegrating, or God forbid we have another traumatic LODD.

They say fences make good neighbors. True, but family doesn’t need fences do they? Unity is a strong line of defense, not easily broken. We have all experienced it when a tragedy strikes and for that eternal but brief week of going through the incident to the burial we hold onto one another. The fences seem invisible for that time. Imagine what the job would be like if we could all do that without the tragedy! That would be a great thing to witness, and I know it would make their jobs a little easier!

Being a gate builder is just about providing a point of access to help, hope, and answers sometimes for impossible situations. I love all LEOs, I honor them, and am passionate about serving them. I call this the “impossible job” and every day it becomes a little more like one. With God, all things are possible. Therefore, I, the gatekeeper, work to build and maintain the access to the One who can forgive, heal, comfort, strengthen, and protect them. Find the gate in your picket fence, and maybe leave it a little ajar for your neighbor or maybe even God. Maybe the first step is just to unlock the gate, your brother could just be waiting on you.

I know God is.

Lisa Lerner, police chaplain Bless the Badge, LEOW. Lisa and Chuck Lerner (30 year LEO retiree) have been married 28 years. She was medically retired after 20 years in Regional Merchandising.  After serving the wives and families of law enforcement throughout their marriage she and Chuck became Ordained Ministers in 2008. Lisa is a certified Police Chaplain with International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC), and (IAOCC), Victim Relief Ministries (VRM). She served as Chaplain for the Grandview  Police Department, Burleson Police Department, and Maypearl Police Department. Lisa is trained in CISM and is a member of the Johnson County Critical Incident Response Team.

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