There’s a Right Way to Treat People

Last fall, I read an article in the L.A. Times that amazed me. Have you ever read something about someone, in a career completely unrelated to yours, that expresses exactly how you want to be in your chosen field?  Well, that’s what this story is to me.  Deputy Elton Simmons is my new hero. Yep, there’s a right way to treat people. Enjoy!


Sheriff’s traffic cop leaves drivers with little to gripe about

Deputy Elton Simmons’ bosses knew he had a good record with the public, but they were surprised to discover just how good: not a single complaint since 1992.

September 10, 2012|By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times

Along with meter maids and IRS auditors, traffic cops may be the public servants most reviled just for doing their jobs. So perhaps it’s inevitable that even the best will get a few citizen complaints filed against them from time to time.

But when Los Angeles County sheriff’s supervisors recently checked the numbers over the last 20 years for one of their veteran traffic cops, what they found shocked them. The number of complaints?

Zero. None. Nada.

Deputy Elton Simmons’ bosses say such a record is near-impossible, that even good cops can get a few a year.

The hulking, black-booted Simmons attributes his lack of complaints to showing simple respect. “Just treat people right, give a smile,” Simmons says. “It’s never ‘Do you know why I stopped you?’ It’s ‘Hey, how are you doing today?'”

Simmons originally came to California as a young man to work for Hughes Aircraft, but cop shows like “CHiPs” stoked his interest in becoming a motor deputy. “You’d see it on TV and I was like ‘I want to do that.'”

Now 53, his mustache graying, he’s one of the department’s most seasoned motor cops. For years, he’s patrolled the streets of La Mirada, cracking down on bad drivers — always careful, he says, to try to make doling out the costly moving violations as pleasant as possible.

His easygoing manner was cultivated by an uncle back home in Louisiana, a pastor who instilled in Simmons the motto “Do good, be good, treat people good.”

Simmons says he thinks about that mantra every time he’s parked in one of his hiding spots, waiting for the next violator. “I tell the rookies, just do the right thing and you don’t have to worry about too many things,” he explains.

Simmons’ approach, his bosses say, can keep what could be ugly moments under control. The motor cop described recently pulling over a particularly frazzled young man for speeding. “He was shaking like a leaf,” Simmons recalled.

He gave the youth some time alone, meanwhile scanning his driver’s license looking for small talk fodder. When Simmons returned to the car window, he changed the subject: “Your license says you’re 280,” he told the driver, referring to his weight. “You’re not 280.”

Almost immediately, the man about to be hit with a ticket was proudly telling how he’d lost 100 pounds through a strict regimen of swimming and healthy eating.

“All of a sudden the shaking is gone,” Simmons said at the station the next day.

“He still got his ticket though, right?” his sergeant interrupted.

“He still got his ticket,” Simmons said.

Civil, he says of his style, but never soft.

Still, even his patience is sometimes tested.

One motorist he stopped for talking on a cellphone said he had one wish for the deputy: Get hit by a car. A lot of cops, one of Simmons’ bosses admitted, would have taken that remark as an invitation to tack on an extra infraction or two. Simmons chose to keep cool.

“I said, ‘Well, if you’re gonna make a wish, it’s not gonna come true.’ He’s a human, I’m a human,” he said.

On a recent summer day, Simmons was hiding from the sun — and passing motorists — under a shade tree along a sprawling stretch of road in La Mirada. His black boots were planted firmly on the asphalt, a sheriff’s black-and-white bike steadied in between. (One fact is evident: Motor cops have to be tall or else it’s hard to keep their bikes balanced while idling.)

Several motorists sped by, but Simmons waited for an especially deserving one before pulling out. It was a very nervous 19-year-old named Ismael Natera.

“I want you to slow down, OK?” Simmons warned in a fatherly way.

Maybe it was because Natera was a teenager sweaty with nerves, or maybe it was because he was late for work, but the youth got off with a warning. “I’ll let you on your way,” Simmons drawled.

“He cut me some slack,” Natera said afterward, growing even later to work but nevertheless willing to sing Simmons’ praises. “I’ve been pulled over before and some cops have … different attitudes.”

Simmons’ next target was a woman behind the wheel of a shiny Lexus SUV.

Legs spread like stilts, leaning casually into her window, Simmons was not so forgiving this time, tagging her with a ticket that would carry a hefty fine. This driver was less inclined to praise Simmons afterward.

Capt. Patrick Maxwell said the deputy has long had a reputation at the Norwalk station as a squeaky clean mentor. But even with that, Maxwell said, he was shocked after reviewing Simmons’ personnel file recently.

 Maxwell confronted him: “When’s the last time you had a complaint?”

“I really don’t know,” Simmons responded.

As it turned out, it was in 1992.

The streak without a complaint is particularly surprising because grievances arise from any number of perceived affronts, including rudeness, racism or simply on policy criticisms. And these days, complaints don’t have to be made in person. They can be shot off online, making Simmons’ record all the more remarkable.

His record aside, Simmons insists he is far from a pushover. He believes tickets save lives.




“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Anais Nin

Since the preceding quote is pretty self-evidently true, why am I still surprised when people disagree with me and don’t see things the way I do? We live in a day and age where people feel entitled to their own opinions and their own facts. Consequently, we’re all over the map on gun control, gay rights, immigration, climate change, containment or prevention with Iran, whether or not LeBron will be better than MJ, which Harbaugh brother is a better coach, is Peyton better than Eli, will Adele outlast Rihanna, and is Lincoln better than Argo.  Everyone has their own point of view and lenses though which they view life.

In church-world, people are all over the place too. Are you Reformed or Arminian, Complementarian or Egalitarian, Charismatic or Cessationist, Missional or Fundamental, Evangelical or Restorationist, old school or new school, suit and tie or jeans and whatever?

So how do you work and live with people who have a different worldview or church-worldview? One option is to live your life insisting that you’re right, that they’re wrong, and that you’re going to prove it.  Another way is to acknowledge someone’s point of view with which you disagree and to seek common ground on what you do agree. You can look for what you can do together to help more people know God and to make the world a better place. And since it’s ultimately God’s deal anyway, he’ll make clear, in time, what’s what.

Some of my friends and I are helping each other figure out what our lenses are. I’m also trying to better understand those of others. And yes, there are biblical non-negotiables for which we must and do stand and fight. As with everything else though, there’s an appropriate way to approach people who have a different pair of glasses on.

“…in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)


Born Identity (No More Fake IDs)

 A parable to which Rob Bell recently referred:

“It seems a first century rabbi was journeying home late from a dinner in a nearby village. There was a fork in the road that led to his village.  If he went left, he would find himself at a Roman military outpost.  If he went right he would find his way home.  It was dark and he had drunk a bit of wine and he inadvertently took the left fork.  Some time later he found himself at the wall of the outpost.  A Roman guard called out to him, ‘Who are you, and what are you doing here?’ The rabbi didn’t answer. The rabbi called back to the soldier, ‘How much are they paying you to do this?’ The guard was silent for a moment.  ‘100 denarii,’ he replied.  The rabbi said to him, “I will pay you double that to come to my house every morning and ask me that same question.’”

Who are you and what are you doing here? Have you thought about it lately? Not what do you do for a living or what’s you contact information. Seriously, who are you really and why on earth are you here? Questions about our identity seem simple at first. But once you get into them, they’re not so easy to answer.  

Born Identity (No More Fake IDs) is Turning Point’s theme for the beginning of 2013. We hope to study the Scriptures and unpack some of the factors and influences that combine to make us who we are. Jesus’ clear and unambiguous understanding of his identity fueled his ability to fulfill his mission. In the same way, we hope a better understanding of our real identity, as image bearers of our Creator and as people being transformed into Christ’s image, will empower us to more faithfully follow him and to become more like him.

Sounds like a lot, huh?  Yep, that’s why we’re going to take our time with it. I can’t wait to see where God takes us this year. It should be quite a ride!





Dead Heat

No presidential election in recent memory has been this close this late in the cycle. Phrases like “too close to call,” photo finish,” “down to the wire,” “nail-biter,” and “2000 Bush v. Gore split decision all over again” are being used to describe it. What’s more, many pundits are calling it the most important election in our lifetimes. Is it just me or does it seem like they say that for every election?

Anyway, next Tuesday is the big day. Our daughter Tory is going to vote for the first time. Christians are all over the map when it comes to November 6th.  Some feel strongly for one candidate. Some strongly dislike one or both. Some are Democrats, some are Independents, some are Republicans, and some are so disgusted by the whole process that they refuse to vote. Ironically, I  know two married couples in which the husbands are voting for President Barack Obama and their wives are voting for Governor Mitt Romney. Yes – our own versions of James Carville and Mary Matalin. They crack me up!

Something that I found helpful in accessing the candidates is the USA Today Presidential Candidate Match Game ll. This Web site takes you, position by position, through where the candidates stand on allthe issues. It also shows you how your own views match theirs. You can also weight categories according to how important they are to you.  Chances are you aren’t aligned 100% with either one but it will show you the data behind which way you lean.

It’s also important to note that as messed up as our political system is, it’s still the best and most envied throughout the world. I can find myself griping about all that’s wrong with it and ignore the fact that more people from around the world want to come to the USA than all of the other largest industrialized countries combined. The following quote from Winston Churchill is worth mentioning: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

So amid the chaos, there is a way to do right by God and as a good citizen. Jesus taught the right perspective on government in Matthew 22, Paul discussed it in Romans 13 and 1 Timothy 2 and Peter addressed it in the second chapter of his first book.

I’ve never considered not voting because of the grief my mom (and my dad too, if he were still alive) would give me.  I do it because of the millions of my forbearers and others who suffered unspeakable torture and gave their lives to secure this right for all of us.  We do well to do our best as good citizens. We also do well to remember that our real citizenship is in Heaven, as is the One in whom we put our ultimate hope and trust.

PS: In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, our hearts and prayers go out to those in pain and who’ve suffered loss on the East Coast.


Trader Joe’s + Good People = Good Things

Ade and Lisa Agbalaya are pillars in and beloved members of the Turning Point Church. Below is the story of the ministry that grew out of their and other’s collaboration with Trader Joe’s and Manna Pantry. Few things inspire me more than when members listen to the voice of God and, on their own initiative, make our community of faith better. They lead and serve without needing to be asked because they are stakeholders, not spectators. Our “You’re It” ministries are alive and well!   


Last year, I (Lisa) happened to be in Trader Joe’s shopping and I started a conversation with one of the employees. She was irritated because a company who was picking up food from them was throwing it in the trash. She mentioned she had to find someone else. Not being a person who passes up an opportunity, I immediately told her about Manna Pantry.


Since then we have gone from 1 store pick up to 3 pick-ups per weekend. The dollar amount of food they donate averages to be about $1,500.00 per pick up and $4000.00 – $4,500.00) per weekend.


An average pick up looks like this:

  • 8am – Go to ( 1 pick up on Saturday @ Laurel Canyon & 2 on Sunday – 1 @ Laurel Canyon & 1 @ Toluca Lake Location)
  • Arrive back in Burbank to sort – meat, bread, fresh produce, desserts, eggs, juices & everything else they sell (protein powder, lotions etc). We load it into crates, which takes roughly 2-3 hours
  • Families arrive on Saturday 10am-11am to shop and the remainder is packed and stored until Sunday Morning
  • Sunday Morning @ 8:30am (pick up, sort and load into truck) until 10am
  • Arrive at our worship service at 11am
  • Leave Service at the start of last song
  • Unload 8-10 boxes and crates into 2 rows in parking structure for families to shop
  • Clean up & trash haul away – 3 hours

We provide food for 25-30 families per week in the Turning Point. Sean and Dana O’Connor serve 15-20 families in the Central Region Church that meets in Glendale.  

I can honestly say it’s the most amazing feeling knowing that God decided to allow  us to serve his people. When you find yourself serving people who are just like you, it’s very humbling. We have gotten to see and experience firsthand pride and embarrassment become humility and gratitude. Struggle makes you connect with people in a way that I never thought possible.  



Why I Lift My Hands

Check out these two short blogs by Holly Furtick entitled Why I Lift My Hands and Why I Lift My Hands, part 2. They are not primers on how any of us has to or should worship in song but they do shed light on why she and others think and worship the way they do. Authenticity in musical worship, or in any other area for that matter, is a beautiful thing. Not saying that we’re all the way there…just saying that we’re en route. Hope you are too.


Joy and Pain

This month has been quite a roller coaster ride for our faith community. We’ve witnessed stunning miracles and had our hearts broken as well.

Billy, Isis, and, Alle Kangas are an heroic and beloved family in our number. We are all grieving the loss of their beautiful baby girl Ella, who was born on May 25th and passed away on June 18th.

I will always remember the memorial service at which Ella’s life was celebrated and honored last Tuesday. A standing room only gathering of family and friends shed many tears and expressed their love to the Kangas’ family. It was as if the Spirit shouted that we are all in this together and that we will walk through the valleys of the shadow of death in this life hand in hand, until the end. It was a moment after which everyone knew God himself had just touched his or her soul.

In terms of miracles, we were encouraged by the news that after four months of surgery and three months of chemotherapy, Georgette Lebitty’s cancer went into remission! We also saw people making turning points in their lives, becoming Christ followers, and being baptized every other day in June! Marc Jackson’s and Hank Solano’s double baptism last Sunday was the crescendo! I’ll always remember that day too!

“But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”  1 Corinthians 12:25-26 (NIV)  


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