Look for the Helpers God Sends Our Way: James Patterson, Luke Sherman, & Rachel Faulkner Brown
James Patterson: I think in general, people in the world now are looking for places where truth exists, where people seem to be trying to do the right thing, which is really important.
Look for the Helpers God Sends Our Way: James Patterson, Luke Sherman, & Rachel Faulkner Brown – Episode #347
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. As we figure out how to navigate the various things that life puts in front of us, we may question as to whether we’re always doing the right thing. When we don’t know what to do, it’s good to remember what Jesus says that can help put us on the right path: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” [John 13:34] “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” [John 15:13] Some people do literally lay down their lives on a daily basis for others. But the rest of us can choose to lay down our lives and love extravagantly in smaller, everyday living-type ways. Those moments when we go out of our way to help someone in need are always something we can know is the right way to go.
James Patterson is considered the world’s bestselling author, and he’s the creator of beloved, enduring fictional characters like Alex Cross and Michael Bennett. He is also known for his critically-acclaimed narrative nonfiction, including Walk In My Combat Boots, and E.R. Nurses. When James started writing his new book, Walk the Blue Line, he was astounded, despite recent events that reflect poor choices by police officers, by the good so many other police officers are doing, and the challenges they face each time they put on their uniform.
James Patterson: My name is James Patterson. I write books. I write adult books, Alex Cross books, some nonfiction, I write some kids’ books. They’ve made some movies from my books. Along Came a Spider, Kiss the Girls, Filthy Rich. And I just did one with Dolly Parton, which was great fun.
I grew up in a small town in upstate New York. Upstate New York is very rural. When people think of New York, they don’t think of upstate New York. A lot of farms. Grew up pretty much Catholic. My mother taught in a Catholic school. Pretty religious family. And, you know, that’s still the faith that I follow. And I’ll go to mass on most Sundays.
I was a good student as a kid. I was not a big reader in those days. My family moved to Massachusetts right after my senior year in high school. We didn’t have any money. My father grew up in a Newburgh poorhouse, actually. His mother was a charwoman, which meant that she cleaned the kitchens and the bathroom and stuff like that. To work my way through college, I started working at a mental hospital. I worked a lot of night shifts. Most of the night shifts are pretty quiet, and I started reading. And then I started writing stories and I loved to do it. And somebody said, “You’re lucky if you find something you like to do, and then it’s a miracle if somebody will pay you to do it.” At that point, I just loved doing it and nobody was paying me to do it yet.
From Ford, Burger King and Toys R Us Ads to Writing Novels
When I got out of college, I went to graduate school actually at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN. And I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have any money. And I somehow got a job in advertising. I don’t know how I fooled them, but I did. I wrote a lot of Ford commercials and Burger King. I wrote, “Aren’t you hungry for Burger King now?” And then I wrote the line, “I’m a Toys R US kid.”
I was writing on the side. I was very lucky. I published my first novel when I was twenty-six. It got turned down by, I don’t know, sixty publishers, but then won an Edgar® Award is the best first mystery of the year so I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, other than it kind of taught me to deal with disappointment. And I’ve been pretty good at that. I don’t expect things to come to me, and I’m grateful when they do.
“I don’t expect things to come to me, and I’m grateful when they do.” – James Patterson
I’ve gotten a certain amount of fame now, whether it’s deserved or not, and I tend to not have a very big head about it. I’m very lucky because I still see the world the way I did as a kid growing up in a small town. So if I get the opportunity to be with Dolly Parton, it’s like, Wow. It’s a blessing. It’s a really nice thing.
What can we do that’s significant, you know? And if you keep remembering it, our time is short. What can we do that’s the most valuable to everybody else and to ourselves and to our own family?
“What can we do that’s the most valuable to everybody else and to ourselves and to our own family?” – James Patterson
I think a lot of it comes from my family. I grew up in pretty much a house full of women: mother, grandmother, three sisters, two female cats. And their buzz and purr is still in my head and their good advice and they sort of kept me in my place and I knew my jobs were to clean up the kitchen, take out the garbage, and shovel the snow. So I’ve always remembered that and pretty much try to keep in my place.
The Good, The Bad, and The Sacrifice of Police Work
I’ve written a lot about the police, and I thought I understood pretty well, but I really didn’t. It’s a really, really dangerous job.
I have a partner, Matt Eversmann. Matt was the actual sergeant who was portrayed in the movie Black Hawk Down. So he’s an Army Ranger and he and I do the interviews, but Matt does more than I do. And Matt is a great interviewer. And he gets people talking about things that they don’t necessarily want to talk about.
And what’s happened with Walk the Blue Line, this book takes you behind the scenes. You really get a feeling for these officers. I’ve done a bunch of ride-alongs with officers, but Matt and I did one recently for a Walk the Blue Line and the sheriff we were with, he said that that year—last year actually—they had had over a million calls for help. And boy, that’s just an awful lot of danger for the police to put themselves in, because every time you knock on the door, if you stop somebody who’s weaving in the street in their car, it’s dangerous when you go out to that car and people don’t really understand that.
And you just get a feeling for that officer as a human being and also hear one or two of their stories. And some of the stories are very heartwarming and terrific. I mean, one of the police officers, whenever he would wear SWAT gear, he would go into his favorite coffee shop and the baristas would come out and give him a hug. And there was another officer and he had worked with a woman who was an addict, and he wasn’t making any headway. And then she just kind of disappeared. And a couple of years later, he met up with her and she reminded him who she was. And she said that she just graduated from college and she invited him to go to her college graduation, which he did.
And once again, that doesn’t mean like what happened recently in Memphis—nobody hates bad cops more than good cops. And almost every cop would just hate what happened in Memphis, that terrible thing, hate what happened in Minneapolis. That’s not most of them. It’s a small percentage of cops that act out like that. These policemen and women, they really need your prayers too. They need them every day. And we need to turn around this situation. And that’s what we were trying to do with Walk the Blue Line is just get people to pay more attention and balance the scales.
“These policemen and women, they really need your prayers too. They need them every day.” – James Patterson
Living in Truth and Making Your Life Count for Something
I heard something recently that I just love. And whether you’re my age or whether you’re twenty, I just think it’s kind of cool. And the notion is that our time here is short and what can we do that is the most helpful, wonderful, everlasting, peaceful? What can we do that’s significant?
I think in general, people in the world now are looking for places where truth exists. Sometimes—and this has always been true of me—I would just go to church and just sit in the church. And there’s something about churches sometimes that they can—you know, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City if you’ve never been in, it’s just amazing to just go there and sit in that church, that big, beautiful thing. And, you know, somehow for this to get built and be as beautiful as it is, same thing with Notre Dame in Paris. You just kind of sit in and go like, Wow, there’s something more than me here.
I think prayer is really useful. But I do think, you know, especially now, more than ever in my lifetime, people just need to go somewhere where they can be at peace and believe that somehow it’s all going to turn out in a good way, you know? And the crazy thing [is] the truth will set you free. I think it does.
“Now, more than ever in my lifetime, people just need to go somewhere where they can be at peace and believe that somehow it’s all going to turn out in a good way, you know? And the crazy thing [is] the truth will set you free. I think it does.” – James Patterson
Narrator: To learn more about James, please visit www.jamespatterson.com, and be sure to check out his book, Walk The Blue Line, at your favorite retailer.
Stay tuned to Luke Sherman and Rachel Faulkner Brown’s story after a brief message.
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Luke Sherman, a former police officer, has experienced thirty years of some of the scariest situations imaginable. Now, he’s taken a new role at the nonprofit organization Folds of Honor, founded by Dan Rooney, and has helped expand their scholarship program from military families to also include the families of America’s first responders. Rachel Faulkner Brown is a gold star wife whose children were scholarship recipients from Folds of Honor, and now as one of the organization’s speakers, Rachel shares how she is passionate to help the families of first responders move from tragedy to hope for the future.
Rachel Faulkner Brown: I am Rachel Faulkner Brown. I am a mother and a wife and a gold star wife and director of Be Still Ministries, Never Alone Widows, and a speaker for Folds of Honor.
Luke Sherman: And I am Luke Sherman. I am a husband, a father, a thirty-year retired veteran with the Tulsa Police Department. I’m a senior vice president of outreach for Folds of Honor in charge of our outreach and our first responder’s expansion program.
The Mission & The Vision
Luke: The mission of Folds of Honor is to provide hope and assistance to the families of military and first responders who have either paid the ultimate sacrifice and lost a loved one in the service of our country or somebody that’s been catastrophically injured. So our goal and our mission is to come in and fill that gap with hope and love. And the neatest part of that is we’re establishing relationships. We’re not just saying, “Here’s a scholarship,” we’re establishing relationships, we’re inspiring people, even though they’ve been knocked down, to say, “We got you, we’re going to get up, and we’re going to move forward with you.”
We’re standing by reverently over here supporting you as you begin to decide and figure out what that journey is past that catastrophic point. And I’ve always said that I’m a big fan of the honor of recognizing those that have fallen, but I’m a bigger fan of that next day. And what are we doing to help that family? This expanded mission now jumps into a different realm with the two million first responders that are joining our military members and families. So this is a really special moment for us to basically say to our heroes and their families, “We have you and we’re supporting you and behind you.” That’s our mission.
Rachel’s Heartbreak and Silver Lining
Rachel: I am from Florence, Alabama, born and raised Southerner. Been there my whole life until I got married and ended up traveling west all the way to Texas. And then all the way back to Georgia. So I’ve lived in every state from here to Texas and then back.
I did see my dad serving in the United States Army, and he was in the National Guard, so while he was a teacher by day, he was a weekend warrior. I did see every man in my family serve, both grandparents, great grandparents. I heard the stories of P-51s in World War II and landing in Greenland in World War II. And it shaped who I am. A life of service was just all I knew from teaching to the army. And I think because of that, it led me to a place of knowing that my future included service. And somehow I didn’t know what that would look like. But I think ministry was a natural fit based on my life and my history.
After I graduated from college, I actually married my college sweetheart. He tragically passed away when I was twenty-three years old of an aneurysm in my best friend’s driveway, which left me just reeling and not understanding how this could be my path and how this could be my story. And, you know, I was just a young bride who had the world before me, and it just tragically ended.
But God was so gracious to allow me to meet and see Blair Faulkner a couple of years after Todd passed away. I saw Blair over Thanksgiving and I came home and I told my mom I was like, “Gosh, I should totally go out with him. He loves Jesus and he has the coolest job in the world. And he wears a flight suit every day.” And I was like, “I just don’t think it gets much better than that.”
And we ended up dating, fell in love, and we got married. I moved to New Orleans, where Blair was stationed with Naval Air Station New Orleans. He had graduated from pilot training in Del Rio, Texas. He ended up going to fighter weapons school. He got his first choice of the A-10. He was, I mean, living big. This is all before me. So I came into squadron life with Blair having made many deployments. And I mean, it was a ride. I remember him giving me the Air Force Wives handbook, and I was like, “Wait, what is happening?” Because my mom didn’t need a handbook to be an Army wife because he just was gone one weekend a month. And I was like, “Whoa, this is a life.”
And to be honest, like, I loved the life. I really did. I love entertaining. I love the squadron. I love the camaraderie, I love the games. I mean, every squadron they play games and sing songs. It’s like a grown up men’s fraternity. And I was like, “Wow, this is just amazing.”
I mean, he pretty much lived every boy’s dream, and he did it every day and he loved it. And his career, he was loving his airframe, went to Afghanistan, came home, we got pregnant with our first baby. And the base ended up closing down in New Orleans because of Katrina. And so we ended up in Columbus, Mississippi, where he was going to train the next generation of fighter pilots in the T-38 airframe, which is a fighter trainer.
He went to work on April 23rd, 2008, and at this point we had a five-month-old little girl, a newborn. We had our girl, we had our boy. He was two years old. It was a beautiful April spring day. And he had a twenty-two-year-old student pilot in the backseat, and they took off with a full tank of gas a cable in the wing broke that day, and they immediately flipped, ejected, and both were killed instantly on the runway.
And I was left widowed twice, this time with two children. And, you know, I think what’s so powerful that I did not know then, but I definitely know now, is the scripture Genesis 50:20. It says, “What you intended for harm, God intended for good and for the saving of many lives.” And then Joseph goes on to say, “Fear not. I will take care of you and your little children.” And I will say I definitely felt that that day.
You know, I remarried six years later and I have no connection, really, to the Air Force except friends. And Folds of Honor has been our connection and has given my children opportunities that I never knew were going to be possible at that point.
What is so crazy is that my dad, the week after Blair died, he was just doing research to help his baby girl because he was devastated for me and he knew this was going to be a life that no one had signed up for and it was going to be hard. And he calls me, I’ll never forget it. He said, “Rachel, you are never going to believe this. There’s this guy in Owasso, Oklahoma and he started this foundation and they are going to give scholarships for college to Davis and Campbell.” And I mean, I had two toddlers. And I was like, “That’s great. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thanks, Dad.” But what is so crazy is that not even a year after Dan had started Folds of Honor, I’m sitting there in my darkest hour, my dad hears about Folds. So it’s like I have known about Folds almost from the moment that Blair died and known that there were people caring about my children that I didn’t know and never honestly thought I would ever meet. And here I sit fifteen years later with two kids who were highly educated in the best schools because of what Folds of Honor has done for our kids.
I’m with these people forever. I mean, you’re helping my children get something that cannot be taken away from them. Education can never be taken away from us. There are very few things in this world that can’t be taken away, and that is definitely one of them, which is why I’m so passionate about having a good education for my children and any other child, because I do think it is the gift that never stops giving.
“Education can never be taken away from us. There are very few things in this world that can’t be taken away, and that is definitely one of them, which is why I’m so passionate about having a good education for my children and any other child, because I do think it is the gift that never stops giving.“ – Rachel Faulkner Brown
And so I joined the speaker’s bureau. Simultaneously, I was starting a ministry here in Atlanta called Be Still Ministries, where I was just so passionate about women sharing their stories. I had a story to tell. I always tell people I’m like the wreck on the side of the road, you’ve got to look, because she lost two husbands. Is she still alive? Is she okay? Is she breathing good? I was that girl. I was like, “Okay, I’m standing up. But I want other people to be able to share their stories.”
All of us have powerful stories. But in Revelation says we overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. [Revelation 12:11] That means the blood of the lamb and our stories are equally as powerful. And so I just believe in storytelling.
I look back and I’m like, Oh, my gosh, what You have done with something the enemy meant to take me out, honestly, to take out me and my children. Look what God has done and flipped it on its head and said, “Don’t worry, Rachel, I’ve got people that are going to take care of you and your little children, just like Joseph told his own brothers.” And I mean, it’s truly miraculous what God does with a yes. And I think about Dan’s yes, and that Luke and I are sitting here today on this podcast and, you know, my yes. And everyone listening: your yes is so powerful in the kingdom and it changes lives. And I am 100% living proof of that.
“I look back and I’m like, Oh, my gosh, what You have done with something the enemy meant to take me out, honestly, to take out me and my children. Look what God has done and flipped it on its head and said, ‘Don’t worry, Rachel, I’ve got people that are going to take care of you and your little children, just like Joseph told his own brothers.’” – Rachel Faulkner Brown
A Call to Serve
Luke: Well, I grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee, so I’m a northerner, but I was born in Milwaukee. I was an adopted kid from a biracial relationship out of wedlock in the sixties. So I got an unbelievable opportunity with a family that adopted me. They have two children already. I think our family grew to six kiddos, including me and Mom and Dad. Dad was a newspaperman. Mom was a full-time mom, which is a full-time job. And I think growing up it was always an issue with me where I identified that I was different because I look different. I’m a biracial black child to a white family. I was the only person that looked like me out of the group. So I very quickly became a people pleaser. I looked at life in that microscope or that view.
Growing up in a Christian environment was good for me. It grounded me and created a situation where I understood that I had faith with my mom and dad, who are still here today. This was a really good engagement for me.
I jumped into college to graduate and get out and get my degree as an eye doctor. And somewhere along the way I decided that that wasn’t exciting for me and became inspired to serve as a police officer and had a wonderful career with the Tulsa Police Department, which I just retired from last year.
And it was such a blessed career where I jumped into SWAT and I jumped into foot beat assignments which are really interacting with people and quickly was promoted to a role where I was a supervisor of a vice unit in the SWAT team and then SWAT team leadership and SWAT command and also special investigations. Pretty much everything but flying the helicopter I got to do and riding motorcycles. I wasn’t crazy about either of those, but I really quickly developed the fact that you know, there are two things we talk about it all the time: freedom and safety. And safety is something that law enforcement does. We protect and serve. And it was a blessing to do that job, because you realize that there were times where people needed you. And as folks said to me many times, “Without you all defending us against the evils of the world, this would be a totally different place.” So it was really rewarding in a day to day, weekly, and yearly situation.
And so I had thirty years of being able to give people a gift of protection and service and handling and working with our mentally ill persons and other people in crisis and being able to help them get through those situations was really a gift, to see them on the backside of that. But I think it really molded me and provided me with the gifts that now through the Folds of Honor—I told Dan Rooney—this is more inspiring than the thirty years of service because we are providing life-changing gifts to these families that have given so much. And so that was really the takeaway for me was as I’m giving a gift now, I get to give it to the first responders who are still giving that gift. And that really resonates with me as to what the true essence of molding me through my career to this next adventure with the Folds of Honor is.
It’s a neat perspective to see that sometimes the work that we do and sometimes the love that you give and the compassion in those phone calls or just lean in on somebody on an intersectional moment where you see them or you’re on the phone changes lives. I tell my two sons and my stepdaughter, I say, “The work that you do sometimes you don’t see the results of. But if it’s done with good intentions and the foundation of our faith behind it, it’ll change lives. It’ll bring mountains down.”
“The work that you do sometimes you don’t see the results of. But if it’s done with good intentions and the foundation of our faith behind it, it’ll change lives. It’ll bring mountains down.” – Luke Sherman
Watching a Legacy Play Out
I get a call roughly about two months after a young lady and her family have lost their husband, who’s a motorcycle police officer who’s been run over, literally a SWAT guy, and just had done everything in his career and [was] sitting at a stoplight. And very unfortunately, he doesn’t survive. And she called and I took the call and I said, “Sure, I’ll come talk to you.” And here’s this tough SWAT guy thinking, Okay, now what do I say? I don’t know if I have the courage. What am I going to say to this lady who has two kids and she’s calling me to come over to her home? And a couple of us from Folds of Honor went to meet her. And I thought, I don’t know if I have the courage to say the right things to her. What if I say the wrong thing?
And so I really had to ground myself in that thought process. This is not about the absence of fear, but it is that there is something more important and you’ve got a message that you need to deliver to her. So we had an amazing meeting and [she’s a] schoolteacher, a powerful woman, two months removed from the love of her life with these two kids, ten and twelve. And he’s gone. And she says, “I’ve got to get up off the ground and move forward. And I’m going to have to get my master’s degree.” And she’s resolved and it inspired me just with her strength two months removed from the tragedy to say, “It’s time to go, and I’ve got to take care of my kids.”
And that story really began to resonate with me because she asked, “You’re Luke Sherman. You’ve trained a ton of people. Do you know my husband?” And I said, “No, I don’t believe I do.”
We were walking outside and they had an unattached garage that he had built to CrossFit primarily with his twelve year old daughter. Really good relationship with her. And I noticed a ton of young officers, they looked like policemen, walking in with their children, paying respects to him by bringing their children to his home and his unattached CrossFit garage to work out with their kids as a sign of respect for him. So I walked over and said hello to them and they knew me immediately from some other work that I do training SWAT groups. And they said, “Luke Sherman, we know you.” And I exchanged some hugs and some heartfelt handshakes, and, “I appreciate what you guys are doing.” And then it really hit me again. She had walked up behind me. They said, “He knew you, too. He loved you. You trained him and he ranted and raved about the training so much that the entire Edmond Police Department got trained by you.” And so it just really seared in my mind the importance of those relationships that you build.
But again, it’s not about awareness of fear. We all have fear. Rachel had fear. Everybody has fear. But what are we going to do? Because there’s something more important. And from every crisis and tragedy, I think there’s an opportunity. And Folds is magnifying that across the four corners of the USA. And I love it.
“Everybody has fear. But what are we going to do? Because there’s something more important. And from every crisis and tragedy, I think there’s an opportunity.” – Luke Sherman
The Stiller You Are, The More You’ll Feel God
Rachel: I so remember when Sarah released Jesus Calling. I’ve worked with it for so many years and loved it, read it. I’ve got one on every bedside table in my guest room, which is hilarious. I think for me, God knows what we need right at the right moment. And it’s been amazing to me through the years to see when I’d open up the page to the date, it was exactly what I needed that day. I don’t know how God does that, but He does it time and time and time again.
Luke: That’s great stuff. You know, an aha moment for me, my wife bought me a journal this year and of course I write in a journal and I read as much as I can. The power is in your mind. And she bought me a devotional to read and it’s Jesus Calling. And I love it, and I really started to embrace it in my morning prayer time.
I mean, the world’s moving so fast and it’s a tough place. Without faith in Jesus, in my Creator, I would be lost. I mean, I came out of law enforcement thinking, This is tough. And then I jumped into Folds.
I realized, Man, I spent thirty years and now I get to carry this burden, which is this deep, dark sadness for so many families. And I didn’t challenge it. It’s God’s calling for me. And I thought, This is what I’ve been built for. I’m a service person and I will carry this mission. But the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Rachel: This is from Jesus Listens on July 4th, my favorite day:
Your Love has conquered me and set me free! The Power of Your Love is so great that it has enslaved me to You. I am not my own; I was bought with a price—Your holy blood. Because of Your amazing sacrifice for me, I want to serve You with every fiber of my being. I know that my service is woefully inadequate. Nonetheless, when I yield myself to Your will, You bless me with Joy.
In Your powerful, loving Name,
Narrator: To learn more about the mission of Folds of Honor, please visit www.foldsofhonor.org. If you’d like to hear more stories about leading lives of service and giving back, check out our interview with Gary Sinise.
Next week: Nazareth
Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we’ll hear from standup comedian Nazareth, who’s been honing his talents for twenty-five years. Nazareth is passionate about making the most of the life he’s been given, and shares how important it is to understand that laughter is truly a healing balm for everyone—including those in prisons and death row facilities, overseas soldiers, and churches.
Nazareth: I want to go where laughter is needed. A lot of times homeless people or people who are hurting or women in a halfway home, for those people, life is so hard they don’t have time to go to a comedy club. They can’t afford to go to a comedy club. And this is where my joy is. It’s so good to see families together laughing and they don’t have to pay for it. And then they get to hear the gospel. To me, this is the ultimate joy.