Friday, December 28, 2012

“Crossing Thresholds” by Garris Elkins

One of the most stress-filled things I have ever done was being an entry man on a SWAT team.  Entry men were the first members of the team to breach a door and cross the threshold of a house to gain entrance. We never knew what was waiting for us on the other side of the door.

Before making entry the team would gather around the doorstep of the house and then kick in the door.  My fellow entry man was taller than me so he went high and I went low.  If there was going to be any altercation it would be in those moments right after the splintered doorframe flew across the room and five heavily armed SWAT team members entered the house to make an arrest.

How you crossed the threshold would determine if you lived or died.  It was serious business and is literally a science in the world of police tactics. Our goal was never to get to the other side and bring death.  Our desire was that through superior tactics whatever we encountered on the other side would yield to our presence and life would be spared.

It has been many years since I was a member of a SWAT team.  At this age, I would get myself in trouble if I tried to do what my youthful strength allowed back then.  Over the years I have come to realize that all of life is filled with thresholds that can produce life and death depending on how we prepare to make the crossing.

As I process the coming New Year, I want to share some of the daily thresholds I cross and what I do to make sure that in the crossing I bring life and not death to those I greet on the other side. I have not been perfect in what I am sharing, but it has been a life goal of mine to try to do this well.

Here are several of my daily thresholds:

As each of us awake in the morning our first conscience thoughts are powerful and can direct the course of our day unless they are captured.  It is too easy to wake up and let a stressful calendar or a scheduled meeting with a difficult person set our initial tone. I want the first thought in my mind to simply be the words, “Thank you, Jesus.” I am not thanking God out of fear that I lived through the night.  I thank him simply because I am alive in him - again. This first threshold is crossed with thankfulness.

I am usually up first.  As I exit the bathroom in the darkness sometimes I will hear Jan rustle in bed.  I let her choose to respond first so as not to awaken her.  When she hears me and the dog walking towards the bedroom door she will usually say, “Good morning.”  My first words to my wife in the darkness are, “Good morning – I love you.” This threshold is crossed with tender recognition.

I set the coffee maker up before I go to bed. I like this arrangement because in the morning all I have to do is hit the brew button on my way through the kitchen in route to my chair where I will have my morning devotions. When I arrive in the living room, I kneel at my chair and say the same thing each day, “This is the day the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it.” I add a few more lines to this prayer, but these first words from my mouth link my day with rejoicing. I cross this threshold by choosing to have an attitude of joy.

A few years ago Jan and I began taking communion together each day.  It has been the most profound devotional time for us as a couple. It only takes a few minutes.  We use unleavened bread and pour some port wine into a special chalice and remember him together.  Our time of communion is many times filled with confession and repentance. At other times we cross over praying for our kids or the church. This threshold is crossed as we choose to remember him.

Each day, as I turn onto Roberts Road and see our church facility a few blocks away, I ask God to pour out his Spirit upon me and our staff so that we can accomplish his plan for the day. What God wants to do each day can only be accomplished in his power. This threshold is crossed when I remain dependent on God.

A block or two before I arrive home I do a quick review of my day and see what I need to unload on God before I get home and unload on Jan.  Sometimes this is a prayer of repentance and other times it is simply choosing to be thankful for the person and home to which I am returning. The threshold is crossed by not forgetting that I have been given the gift of returning.

The Bible says to not let the sun go down on our anger.  For most of the year there are several hours between the setting of the sun and when we finally go to bed.  Hours of unresolved anger and bitterness can ruin an evening with our family. Crossing this threshold means engaging how we really feel and choosing to turn off the TV and computers and getting things right so that joy, not sorrow, is the atmosphere of our home.

Crossing this threshold is where we discover if we have been honest with each other throughout the day.  Years ago I made a commitment that each night, when the lights went out and we entered our bed, I would say, “Good night – I love you.”  If I have any difficulty saying those words to Jan the light comes back on and we deal with whatever it is that is robbing us of peace.  Crossing this threshold each night requires uttering my commitment and being willing to deal with my pride.

Crossing thresholds is something each of us does multiple times every day.  Many times we find ourselves allowing our emotions or the painful events from our day to direct these crossings.  We have the power of choice.  We can choose to do these crossings differently and arrive on the other side healthy, alive and more in love with each other. 

For the coming New Year make a resolution to investigate how to better cross the daily thresholds of your life. It will make the threshold of the coming New Year something to anticipate.


  1. I love what you shared, sweetheart, and what you wrote is why my love for you continues to deepen.

  2. Jan, you are a wealthy woman!

    Garris, thank you for your transparency. You make us all wealthier.