NIGHT PEOPLE

Four-sixteen a.m. I am hard of hearing due to my early line of work so as I sit at my desk in my dimly lit study, I faintly hear what I think is a clock ticking from high on the wall to my left. It reminds me that my rest time, the hours now in the early morning are slipping away and I should try and redeem them. Pain, however, is a nemesis to sleep.

When I was a young police officer, I worked mostly midnights for about thirteen years. In the small town where I worked, you got to know what houses would have a reading light on in a room at a particular time of night or see the blue lit haze through a curtain of a television on in another. Night people, many probably awake because of pain. Those who drive by my place at night now  can probably know the nights the study light is brighter than its normal small light. The small one assigned the task of preventing me  from smashing a pinky toe when I come in to turn on the other light at my desk. They may even see the light from the computer screen brighten the drawn shade.  Telltale signs of a person awake perhaps because of pain, or perhaps, just one of those I nostalgically call, the night people.

When I was out and about at night all the time, I became acquainted with the night people. The deli store clerks, the truck driver preparing to leave with a load, those who had just left the bar carrying their own load, and some folks who just preferred to be out and about at night for no real reason because their own body clock kept them dwellers of the night season. I didn’t usually meet up with those who were awake, because of pain. Those souls were normally home-bound. The last thing you want to do is go out and roam around when you hurt but they remain people of the night.

One lady, an older, somewhat rough around the edges, kind of person; one who had been pushed around by life and pushed back really sticks in my mind. I’m remembering back to the very early 1970’s, maybe even late 1960’s when I came to know her. She lived in a small village of Lodi, Ohio. For a few years, my older brother was a police officer there and worked the night shift before going to the sheriff’s office. I would ride with him every chance I got.

The department had two means of being dispatched. The overarching one was the county sheriff’s office. The vintage one was this lady I’m thinking of. Since she was awake most of the night, calls for the police were routed to a phone in her home. In a small corner of a room she had a desk with a police radio transmitter and receiver on it. Next to it was her coffee cup and almost always a cigarette burning in the ashtray. No computers. No bells or whistles. A phone, a radio with its mic and this dear lady. We’d stop by for coffee when the night permitted it, which was most nights. Her raspy deep voice, shaped by years of cigarettes would crackle across the radio usually about this time of the morning to give the call-sign of the transmitter and say, “Rod (my brother) I’m switching over to the SO now. Good night.” With that she’d literally flip a switch on the phone and it would again go directly to the sheriff’s office. 

We met others, too. Some interesting ones were always found at the Royal Castle. I’d call it a restaurant along IS 71 at SR 83 but a truck-stop greasy spoon would be a more apt description. Long gone from the scene at that intersection now, taken over by large corporate truck stops on either side of the Interstate. At the Royal Castle you knew how good the coffee was by how long your spoon could stand straight up in the cup, held only by the density of the black tar like semi-solid they called coffee. You could grease one of the 18-wheelers in the lot with the grease scraped off the stove, if they would have ever scrape it off. Not sure they ever did. The burgers though, were fantastic, dripping until you had a puddle of grease on your plate. Ah, the healthy lifestyles of the night people.

The folks of the night were not usually embroiled in the national or international news of the day. What happened locally, though, they knew well and had an opinion. If it was an election year, it wasn’t party that would divide a conversation (it never divided friendships just conversations). It was who believed which candidate would really do what was best for their local world.

Their world is different. Not better or worse, just different. It was unlikely the day people would ever meet the night people. Most daytime dwellers never realize night people exist.

But they do, or they did… once upon a time, in a land far, far away, in the quiet dark of the night.

This Royal Castle coffee mug is now being sold for about $50.00 It has withstood a LOT
of heavy coffee! I don’t own it and at those prices, I won’t!

WHOSE FAITH?

Have you been a Christian for a long time and yet, it seems the hard times of the world still weigh you down? Do you begin to think, ‘What kind of a Christian am I?’ ‘Why can’t I just sing through the tough times and trust?’ ‘Maybe my faith isn’t strong enough.’

Guess what! You’re right!  Your faith isn’t strong enough. Neither is mine or, as far as I know, anyone else’s! How’s that for ‘good news’?

I just watched a live broadcast where Pastor Brannon and Ryan Ervin of the North Canton Chapel (Ohio) taught a Bible study on Galatians chapter 2 that talks about salvation by faith alone. That is a great bit of news for anyone who needs to come to know Christ as Savior.

But you, you’ve been a growing Christian for a bunch of years and you have been to Bible studies and retreats, you’re sure of your salvation but that nagging question of the strength of your faith when the storms really hit won’t let you sleep at night. When cancer comes to call on someone close to you or, God forbid, to you, how’s faith fit in? You’ve prayed for that small child in Romania for months as he has endured surgery after surgery and his parents buried him last week. Faith? Your job is gone. The virus panic and the quarantine has dropped the bottom out of the market and your retirement is down to about where you started with it. How’s faith deal with that? Your marriage seems to get harder every year rather than easier like you expected and your kids are grown but their problems are now adult size and you long to help but you stare at the sky wondering if God hears. Whose faith is strong enough for this reality we call life?

It all comes down to a two-letter word. A small preposition, in the Greek, the original language of the New Testament, it is ev. It can be translated several ways and is used in the New Testament 2801 times. Most times it is translated ‘in’ but it is also properly translated ‘of’. Why does that matter to you? To me? Let me explain.

A couple of verses are critical to understanding why we need not beat ourselves up because we have weak faith. We want to strengthen it, sure; but God knows and there’s more to the story of faith. Take a look at the passage in Galatians 2:21 Here’s the NIV translation: “ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The ev I want you to look at is bolded and underlined. “In” is an appropriate translation but look how it is also correctly translated in the King James text.  20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Again, I bolded and underlined the ev.

What’s the difference and why is it important to you in your struggle? Remember, both can be correct. Since we only know what the Greek word used was but we don’t know exactly the inference Paul meant, ‘of’ or ‘in’ we have to look elsewhere for clarity.

First though, notice the difference. In the first translation the reader is living his life in the flesh “by faith in the Son of God” – PLEASE don’t misread me. That is not a bad thing, that is exactly where our faith should be focused. But, in the second translation, the reader is living his life in the flesh by the faith of the Son of God. That is, he is living it by Christ’s faith which is never weak. It is never not enough. It never fails. So,  you don’t need to fret that your faith is too weak. Even though it is, you can take hope in the fact that you can live your life in the strength of Christ’s faith not yours!

How can I be dogmatic about that since very few translations read it that way? First, it is an acceptable translation of ev. Second, remember I wrote that we would look at other evidence. That is where Ephesians 2:8 comes in to play. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” If you diagram that sentence like we did in seminary, you find that the ‘gift of God’ is faith. The faith we depend on is not ours it is God’s unrelenting, unfailing faith. When we run low, we can recharge. The Bible is replete with passages underscoring God’s gracious giving to those who ask according to His will. He wants you to have faith in Him. He wants your faith to grow! He gives faith, He gives grace.

May these few words encourage you and help to strengthen your daily walk.

Anticipation for a Corona Vacation

“The game is afoot” ol’ Sherlock said.

But how could that be?

Ol’ Sherlock’s dead!

But there it was my foot and my leg,

I got my cast off, without having to beg!

The leg is all stitched, I’m out of the cast,

It’s time for vacation, it should be a blast.

But the stores are all shuttered and closed as they said,

Will this be so boring we wish we were dead?

“Not at all!” to the family I said through clenched teeth,

We’ll make up some games and cook up a feast!

Yes, the whole family together, all stuck in the house,

But put on a smile, don’t anyone grouse!

We all will get through this, one way or another.

Don’t ask me how. Go ask your mother!

GRAINS of SAND

George Clooney and Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air (2009)

Sometimes, Momma wants to watch a light-hearted movie and knowing her take on the usual John Wayne movies I have on hand, I keep her happy by picking a romantic comedy.

George Clooney plays a frequent flyer, in the movie Up in the Air, who begins to fall in love with a lady frequent flyer played by Vera Farminga. They began a casual romance with in-between flights.  Both travel constantly for business. When he finds out she is married, she tells him that he is a parenthesis in her real life. Can you imagine such a hit?

My wife, I think, would say that I am a sentence, not a parenthesis. Either a long run-on sentence with too many conjunctions and no exclamation point or a life sentence without possibility of parole! I’m kidding, of course. My wife has been  a godsend and she has more patients than anyone I know! Of course, that’s spelled with a ‘t’. She’s a doctor.

The movie, from 2009, speaks to time. How do we spend it? Spend is a great analogy for time. It is an unbelievably precious commodity of which we each are allotted at once, the same amount, and despairingly different amounts. By that I mean, we all have the same number of hours each day, the same number of minutes in those hours. What is different is how many of those days we are allotted. Some may have the three-score and ten years of which the Bible speaks. Others have but a few hours on this earth. The amount of sand in each of our hourglasses is our own and we cannot know its number.

My son and his wife just orchestrated the donation of a Cuddle Cot for a local hospital in memory of their triplets. The special bed allows a baby who has died at birth to remain cool and give the mother and father time to bond and grieve. A gift of time. Something those who have lost a child prebirth, such as my wife and I and my son and his wife, wished we could have had. You feel a strange emptiness as if you were robbed of time to spend with your babies. Thankfully, our God has destined us to be able to share infinite days with them for all the future. For now, though, such parents deal with the loss of time.

Perhaps one of the hardest things about living in America in the 21st century is time. Being ‘retired’ for a while now, I am still struggling with the concept of time, busyness, multi-tasking instead of relaxing, and I am realizing how much we miss by being too busy. We actually deprive those we love of the most important thing we can give them, especially our small children and grandchildren, when we do not have the right perspective on time. My grandchildren desire my time more than anything. I gift them time when they are talking to me and I am there, completely, listening, interacting, enjoying their faces and their desire to share what they are trying to tell me. Try looking directly into your granddaughter’s or son’s eyes as they tell you about their day. The story is only partly what you hear. You will sense the depth of the story by what you see. Give yourself a treat and commit to being wherever you’re at.  

Our pastor said recently in a sermon about time, talents, and treasures, “When we see time as a gift, we will use it for (God’s) glory.” We will stop wasting it but, by that, I don’t mean we must stay busy. Exactly the opposite. We will learn to slow down, take in the world and the people around us. You can actually, smile at someone you pass on the street, play ‘go fish’ with our kids, or ride a bicycle around the block. Take time to pet a horse, scratch a dog behind his ears and watch him as he lays at your feet, his paws crossed, head on his legs drifting off to sleep. That’s God telling you to sit still for awhile and relax because you aren’t going anywhere especially if you have a really big dog! It’s a great way to worship.

Gospel centered time management, our pastor said, is worship. We realize that God is in control so we don’t have to be. The Bible reminds us to “number our days” and thus “gain wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). As a parent of crazy busy kids and school and work and sports and music and plays and meetings and… it’s hard to see it. “In parenting, the days are slow but the years are fast” our pastor declared and sitting at this end of the table now, I have to agree. I guess that sums it up, our place at the table.

Remember when you were little? At my grandparents’ house or other family gatherings  the infants, of course, were off in a corner in a highchair where mom or an aunt or someone special would be caring for them. The youngest kids were usually at the fold-up card table out on the porch of my Papaw’s and Mamaw’s house in West Virginia. The back porch was screened in and the mountain behind the house came right down to the base of the porch. When you looked out the screened-in window, it was straight up. There was a steep path that led up to the chicken coop, to the little cemetery plot overgrown with weeds and then farther up was a field my Papaw worked with a plow drawn by a horse. When you got a little older you moved from the small fold-up card table to the bench at the long table, still on the porch. It took time and empty places at the table before, as a young adult, you moved inside.  Now, I sit, not at the table of that old house in the small hollow between the mountain behind us and the creek, coalmine railroad and the mountain in front of the house, but in my own home. Here, I’m Papaw and at the head of the table. My grandchildren, the infants in highchairs, the smallest children at the fold-up little picnic  table, the older grandchildren at the counter with stools and the adults gathered around the tables wherever they can find a place. So, it took awhile to get to this end of the table, but the years blew by. A lot of empty places have been filled with new faces, and so it goes. Someday my seat will be open. Time is a precious gift, indeed.

Are you really busy? Does it seem like you’re living the life of the guy from the old Dunkin’ Donuts commercial who was always getting up early to ‘make the donuts’ and then getting home late, until eventually, he met himself at the door? In the sermon I mentioned earlier, the pastor challenged us to ask God a question. Before you do it, you better make sure you’re ready for the answer. I’m still struggling with that one and I’ll touch on that in a minute. Ready? “Ask God what you should quit.”

Recently, I read an author, whose name I don’t recall, but I wouldn’t recommend his writing anyway. He had counseling credentials from somewhere. I think it might have been Bullwinkle’s alma mater, Wossamotta U. Much of what he said was shoveled from the stable floor but one thing did hit home. (Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once-in-a-while!) He talked about men needing a mission. We seem geared for some kind of mission and we take from that mission a bit of, or even a large part of, our identity. For those who follow Christ, our mission can certainly be God-honoring and we can go forth and do well. Others, perhaps still Christ-centered, may find their given mission in some other role. When that mission is no more, whether it be through retirement, illness, disability or another life-changing event; we struggle. I struggle. It is tough to be in this situation and then consider asking God what I should quit. I am learning how to revel in the role of Papaw. I hope that someday I catch a glimpse of the pride I saw in my wife’s eyes when I was serving in law enforcement or when I was preaching or teaching regularly, while I’m papawing. I’m sure it’s there, I just haven’t caught sight of it yet. It helps drive us. Some may say that sounds crazy but I’ve watched a lot of guys retire and struggle to regroup to find their new mission. I was told once, ‘always retire to something not from something. That’s how I see it work with men.

How women are wired? You’ll need someone with an electrical engineering degree to answer that one, I speak from only what I know and that isn’t much normally and when it comes to the wonderful world of women, forget it. They are wonderful and complex creatures, made by God for amazing things. Why so many women want to be ‘equal to a man’ confuses me. I started to write, ‘why lower yourself to that standard?’ That would sound like I’m demeaning God’s creation of man. So, rather I will write, ‘Why can we not celebrate the wonderful differences the Grand Creator designed for us?’

I don’t know how my wife will be when she isn’t running a thriving medical practice every day, when, no matter where we go someone says, “Hi Doctor Riggs!” and begin to regale their company with what a wonderful doctor she is. And she is, too. When she is no longer seeing patients every day and teaching residents every day, how will that be for her? She has always said she is wife, mother, grandmother and as a job, she’s a doctor. I believe that is how she strives to be. Life changes, dramatic ones can be tough. I doubt she’ll ever be completely done. One of the many things she is good at is appreciating time. She squeezes every moment out of every minute, even when she is relaxing and ‘doing nothing’ she is doing nothing to its utmost.

 To graciously receive and appreciate the gift of time God has given us, such is our challenge. When we do, I believe we will worship our Creator, thanking Him for each moment. My desire is to relish my moments and to never be relegated to being not much more than a parenthesis in their lives. I trust that for those closest to me, when the sand in my hourglass has run out, memories will always spark a smile!

CYBER CORONA ? How Hackers are Using the Virus Scare to Steal Your Identity

15 MARCH 2020  

THE FOLLOWING IS A REPORT ON THE CYBER IMPACT

OF THE CORONAVIRUS SCARE

Please before you shut down and ignore everything that is to follow, this is NOT a re-hash of the garbage which has been spilling out of the mouths of talking heads on every media outlet. The information being provided here is vital for anyone who knows someone who may be more susceptible to SCAMMERS particularly when it comes to matters of health, healthcare and the worries over the virus.

Usually, when we think of persons susceptible to scams involving health-care, the seniors in our family circles are the first on our minds. This is certainly true now because of the fear-mongering being thrown upon them in daily news casts and their conversations with friends and family. It is not only, though, seniors who are at risk. New information available through intelligence sources indicates that cyber-criminals; those who hack systems for information, others who are phishing for identification information and even those who are spreading their own kinds of viruses are using  COVID-19 as a means to their criminal ends.

Anyone who finds in their e-mail something looking even vaguely official claiming specific information regarding the Coronavirus Disease will likely open it. The user is then susceptible to malware, spyware, trojans and even backdoor programs which can completely destory any confidentiality of the users’ information. Malware can infect a computer program with a worm, virus or trojan. The differentiation is the virus will introduce a malware which attaches itself to a program and mass reproduces itself throughout the system and through the contacts the user has on their system. A worm is similar in destructiveness without the replication and trojans are “programs that, enter computers appearing to be harmless programs, install themselves and carry out actions that affect user confidentiality.”[i] Spyware can infiltrate a system to monitor all activity on a device and obtain information which breaches security software, exposing confidential identification information. Sources report that internationally placed hackers are using the scare tactics easily contrived due to Coronavirus to plant such software and even use backdoor programs to open cameras and microphones remotely, obtaining all types of confidential information. Backdoor programs literally allow the hacker into your system to have free reign of it and all the information contained therein.

Phishing expeditions work similarly, introducing themselves to the user by claiming some connection to a government entity involved in healthcare or emergency measures due to the ‘outbreak.’ Not relying on just software to do their work, they seek to solicit private information from the user through e-mail or by telephone contact following up an email. They claim to need to confirm the users’ information and current status for healthcare reasons. They may claim to be from a government health insurance program designed to protect the person from hospital costs due to Coronavirus, etc. In so doing, they obtain as much confidential identification information as possible from the user. They may also solicit funds for caring for others sickened by the disease or for an insurance policy for the user or their family against the costs affiliated with contracting the disease.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF and OTHERS comes back to the basics. Health officials are telling everyone it is all about limiting contact and avoid spreading germs. This is done by suppressing coughs and sneezes while being proactive. One way to be proactive is by thoroughly washing your hands. Such simple actions are key to battling the actual virus, the same is true in the cyber world.

LIMIT CONTACT Do Not Open any e-mail that comes from someone unknown to you and purports to be from a government or health entity about the Coronavirus. If you have already opened it and you become suspicious of its contents, DO NOT download any files. In fact, do not download any files that come from ANYONE other than someone you specifically know and trust.

AVOID SPREADING the virus. Run scans on your system daily, automatically scheduleds scans are good precautions any time. Also, scan your system immediately after you have opened something of which you are unsure. Make certain others in your on-line circles do the same and have them let you know if they receive anything from you that does not look right.

BE PROACTIVE  Running system scans and keeping malware protection up-to-date are like washing your computer’s hands. Keep up on the latest phishing and scam attempts which are prevelant.

COMMON SENSE is what will see us past the Coronavirus COV-19 scare, although, sadly there is little of it being displayed. Common sense will also help you prevent yourself or others you care for from being taken down by some virus hacker sitting in the dark in his mother’s basement somewhere in a suburb anywhere in the world.

The preceding SECURITY BRIEFING was written by Dr. Ross Riggs, President of Security Consulting Investigations, LLC (SCI). SCI is licensed by the State of Ohio Department of Public Safety/Homeland Security. Dr. Riggs is a Certified Police Executive, retired Chief of Police and owner of SCI since 2006. He has traveled, teaching and consulting globally for fifteen years. He is the author of many published professional articles and of a book, Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Time of Heightened Threat. Published by Motivational Press, it is available through Dr. Riggs’ company site, www.DefenderLtd.com Dr. Riggs and staff can be reached for consulting, private investigations or for providing infrastructure security at 1.888.719.5636  You may also reach them through the website’s contact form on the main page or by email at: admin@defenderltd.com


[i] Panda Security https://www.pandasecurity.com/en-us/security-info/

A VOIDED CHECK

I originally planned this post for Memorial Day. Such a day, though, is for honoring the sacrifices of all who have paid for our freedom with their last full measure of devotion. This post, I pray, still honors those; but it will also speak up for those whom this country has failed. Allow me to explain.

“What is a Veteran? A ‘veteran’ whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserve – is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount of ‘up to, and including his life.’ That is Honor. And there are way too many people in this country today, who no longer understand that fact.” (Author unknown)

When a family grieves the loss of their Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine or Coast Guard they know their loved one dutifully, particularly during the draft, and many voluntarily wrote that blank check to their country. The family deserves to know the check was cashed toward protecting this country, its people, our way of life, protecting all, the great and the not-so-great. They deserve to know the check was not VOIDED and their loved one died needlessly. They know that in war and in training, accidents happen; that is not the issue. They know there are mistakes and bad judgment calls by leaders who are, themselves, human and fallible. That too, is not the issue.

A close up of a map

Description automatically generated
Benghazi, Libya    
The West Coast of Africa

What voids a check in such circumstances is that their loved one died because of criminal negligence and that betrayal of trust was never brought to justice. Unfortunately, over our country’s history, there are many examples. One most current, which could still be corrected by those with the power to do so, happened in two places. A small U.S. Embassy post in a place called Benghazi and in the Secretary of State’s office in Washington D.C. Four Americans died in the September 12, 2012 Benghazi attack; Ambassador Chris Stevens, former teacher Peace Corps; Information Officer Sean Smith, a U.S. Air Force veteran and two CIA operatives, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both former Navy SEALS.  

In January of 2013, Rep. Jim Jordan, (OH) questioned SOS Clinton concerning her lack of honesty to the American people in hearings regarding the non-response. Her response to him and the previous representative included her now infamous words, in sum, “What does it matter?” In context, she is referring to the original impetus for the attack whether it is one thing or another. For the families of those killed, it matters a great deal and so does the lack of response by the administration to send aid. Bad decisions, every one of them. What voids the check, however, are the lies produced to cover it up and the lack of justice for those who were criminally negligent in fulfilling the duties of their office. There is still time for such justice for this case. Sadly, many other cases are long out of reach, though not out of the hearts and memories of the families.

What we should commit ourselves to, as Americans, is that there will never be another VOIDED check, ever in our nation’s future. Our military families deserve to know the strength of our resolve in such a time, as this. For us, that is HONOR.

A Story

One bright and sunny summer day, an old man came walking into town. He was a quizzical looking old man with a dusty hat that hung low over his eyes.

All good stories begin with Once Upon a Time, except the best story ever, it begins with “In the beginning…” Well, I can’t match the Bible’s story so, let’s start out with the classic line.

Once upon a time, in a land that would look very much like America today, there was a small town, in a vastly rural area in which some of the richest people in the world lived. They had so much of everything. Whenever what they possessed broke, they just bought new. They could go where they wanted and, pretty much, do as they pleased. They had to obey the laws and pay their taxes, but they were still very much free to do whatever they liked. One thing was certain, they believed that they were never going to have to answer for anything they did which may have been in some way wrong.  They were masters of their fate.

One bright and sunny summer day, an old man came walking into town. He was a quizzical looking old man with a dusty hat that hung low over his eyes. The only thing you could see was long silver grey beard sticking out from under the hat. His hair was the shiniest silver grey anyone had ever seen. It was disheveled but clean and incredible to look at. His flowing beard was of the same lustrous silver grey and the mustache adorning his upper lip nearly covered his mouth completely, each end coming down and laying gently across his beard.

His clothes were certainly unique. He looked something like a cross between Indiana Jones and a motorcycle cop! His wore a tan shirt and jacket, a dark brown leather jacket to be precise. He carried a pouch slung across his shoulder, much in the Indiana Jones style and he carried along a worn backpack, the straps frayed and the canvas worn almost through in a couple of places. His ‘cargo’ style pants were tucked neatly into a pair of knee-high brown boots, the kind you might have seen a turn of the 20th Century motorcycle cop or maybe a ‘dough-boy’ cavalry soldier from WWI wear. He didn’t so much use a cane, as he did carry a stick that was also worn and well-marked from what must have been years of traveling by foot. His right hand gnarled and thick from hard work and long years clutched the crown of the stick that had the appearance of an eagle in flight.

The old man walked to the center of the city, strolling up to a bench in front of the magnificent city hall. There was just enough breeze to catch the flags and slap them against the wind. As he lay his pack on the bench, he took off his hat, running his forearm sleeve across his brow. He sat down with a sigh and began to gaze out across the city hall courtyard of marbled fountains and intricate stone-work patios. A valiant-looking bronze eagle was perched atop a design of the city’s seal which bore on it pictures of industry, farming and business. Yes, it was a fairly grand looking courtyard, the bushes neatly trimmed, the grass watered just enough and manicured so that no weed would dare poke its ugly head up to the sunlight. After a short time, it seemed the man dozed, but a curious thing was happening as people seemed drawn to come look at him. He had said nothing, was offering nothing; yet folks were hearing about him and coming, even from their homes, to stop by and stare at this old gentleman as he reposed upon the bench in the afternoon sun.

As the crowd grew, a hushed murmur was evident across the group, for it seemed no one wanted to disturb the gentleman in the flowing silver-grey hair now taken up residence in their city center. A slight hint of a smile seemed to cross his face, even as his eyes remained closed and his hands rested, crossed on top of the walking stick’s eagle crown. His eyes opened slowly and the smile grew brighter as he looked across at the crowd which had gathered to gawk at this strange sight of a man. And then, he spoke.

How long will you simple people continue to live in your simple ways? His question caught the townspeople off-guard. “What does he mean simple? We have some of the best technology money can buy!” Another remarked, “How dare he call us simple! Haven’t we got a fine university here and so many of our citizens are well-educated!” The old man was silent, looking out; his blue eyes seeming to pierce into the hearts of those who met his gaze.

“How long,” he said quietly, “will those who laugh and scorn others continue their derision and the foolish ones of you hate knowledge?” The townspeople were not sure whether to be angry at the old man or if he was just a simple-minded old man, off his medications and his mouth uttering whatever entered his feeble mind. The old man slowly began to rise from his bench, his right hand firmly grasping the cane for support.

“You should regret what I must say to you and you must turn from your pride and mocking and beg forgiveness to God for not taking time to understand His ways!”

Now the people began to think the old man was mentally off and maybe he could be dangerous! Someone thought the police should be called to control the old man and take him away if necessary. Still he spoke again. “I will be here and I will teach you the right way to live. None of you will listen, though. You will close off your ears and not pay attention to what I try to tell you. I will have no choice but to punish you for the way you are.” His last statement was said with a mixture of emotions. It was at once forceful and commanding and at the same time, so very sad. It was if his heart was breaking to say it.

Some of those standing near, laughed at the old man. Most laughed in a heckling way, while others, had just a bit of nervousness in their laugh. They called out to one another that the old man was mad and should be locked up and then they, too, laughed.

Now standing, his arm outstretched, the cane pointing menacingly at the crowd. “I will laugh,” he said, “when disaster, which I bring upon you, strikes you down and fills you with fear!”

Some of the people now backed away, but none could seem to just leave. They remained drawn to this old man dangerously threatening to strike them. He called out in a strong voice, “When disaster comes and blows away this majestic city and you cry out to me to protect you, I will not answer you.” The old man turned his gaze heavenward, then returning his eyes to the crowd, he declared, “You will search for me but you will not be able to find me.”

It was, as if, the sunny summer afternoon with the light breeze had turned ominous. The sky was now grey and clouds were gathering. The sun was blocked by growing clouds.

The old man looked, with pity, upon the young children standing there. As if to explain, he spoke gently to them. “They would not listen to me. They hated the knowledge I tried to share and they refused to even acknowledge how God has blessed them. Now, they must face what comes to those who do not know, honor and share God. It is their own foolishness that will destroy them.”

The children, unafraid, came closer to the old man as he sank back to the bench, exhausted. Some climbed up and sat next to him but all were staring longingly into his tired eyes. It was as though they hoped for good news from him after such bad.

Gently, the old man placed his hands on the heads of the children closest to him, leaning down, he spoke reassuringly to them. “Whoever listens to me will live safely and never have any fear of harm.” As he spoke, a hint of sunshine broke through the clouds and brightened the bench with its strange occupant and all the children sitting near. The old man slowly rose, slinging his pack onto his back, he started walking away.

“When will these things be? When will the disaster come?” some of the men hollered after the old man as he walked away. He just kept walking. Some of them laughed even more loudly, calling out insults to the old man as he left. Many more stood silent, lost in their thoughts as the figure of the old man faded from sight.

(The preceding was an adaptation of Proverbs 1:20-33)